It was the most deadly outbreak of Ebola in history, claiming more than 11,000 lives as hemorrhagic fever swept through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Now, you can learn about the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak in an exhibition that brings its tense evolution to life.
The David J. Sencer Museum at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Atlanta headquarters recently opened “Ebola: People + Public Health + Political Will,” which preserves the human stories behind the epidemic.
The exhibition takes visitors through a timeline of the outbreak, from its emergence in Guinea to its unprecedented spread through urban centers including Monrovia, Liberia, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. It puts a face on the health workers on the front lines, and it puts visitors in the shoes of everyday people faced with sickness, death and confusion about how Ebola is transmitted.
Artifacts such as lab equipment, hand-washing stations and crosses used to mark graves show the virus’s unsettling march. Hope is also on display. Materials used to educate people about the disease — including Bibles marked with passages that were interpreted to support Ebola prevention and T-shirts and posters designed to raise awareness about how it’s transmitted — underline strategies used to subdue and eventually stop the outbreak.
The moral of the story? Public health emergencies can take a tremendous toll, but people can and do come together to stop them. Lessons learned in 2014 have already been put into action in Congo, where a recent Ebola outbreak that caused four deaths ended in 42 days. In contrast, the West Africa outbreak lasted two years.
To enter the museum, you’ll need a photo I.D. issued by the U.S. government or your state. Expect your car to be inspected on the way in — and for the exhibition to make you think about how quick, concerted action can help create a healthier world. If you can’t travel to the museum, you can hear oral histories and view photos online.
“Ebola: People + Public Health + Political Will” runs through May 25, 2018.