UMF Emery Community Arts Center Presents ‘Departures: Peace Corps Pandemic Stories’

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People watch the Pacific Ocean from an island in Samoa. Photo by Marco Moreno

The University of Maine at Farmington plans to present “Departures: Peace Corps Pandemic Stories,” a multimedia exhibit inviting the public to engage with the voices and stories of Peace Corps volunteers and staff who have been impacted by the suspension world of Peace Corps programs during the COVID -19 pandemic. Between February and March 2020, the United States Peace Corps – a volunteer service agency created by President John F. Kennedy – evacuated more than 7,000 volunteers from sites in more than 60 countries.

This unique exhibit runs March 1-10 in the lower level atrium of the UMF Emery Community Arts Center on Main Street in Farmington and is free and open to the public. An opening reception is scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1. Per UMF COVID protocol, masks are required in all indoor spaces on campus. Attendees are encouraged to log in to all events for contact tracing.

This exhibit is the first to feature the archives of the Oral History Project of Evacuated Peace Corps Volunteers. Coinciding with the second anniversary of the Peace Corps evacuations and the emergence of the coronavirus, it documents a pivotal moment in the agency’s 60-year history and chronicles how the pandemic has changed lives and communities around the world.

A short documentary and interactive map installation with excerpts from oral history interviews are included in the exhibit, photos of volunteers and staff, personal updates, press releases and other artifacts, exploring multiple experiences and meanings of departure. Additionally, a virtual version of the gallery exhibit is available for visitors to browse on a computer or smartphone. An activity guide and other resources are also available for class and group visits.

This exhibition was developed by Olivia Donaldson, Associate Professor of French at UMF and Director of International and Global Studies, Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 2001 to 2003. She developed this exhibition in cooperation with the Museum of the Peace Corps Experience, Peace Corps Oral History and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History–University of Kentucky Libraries.

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