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VA History Office


Innovating through adversity: Artifacts from the VA History Office's COVID-19 collection

VA History: Artifacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Innovating through adversity: Artifacts from the VA History Office's COVID-19 collection

The COVID-19 Pandemic changed the course of life for the American public and the Nation’s medical system. Nowhere was this truer than in the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA).

VHA is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,293 health care facilities, including 171 VA Medical Centers and 1,112 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics) to over nine million Veterans enrolled in the VA health care program.

From the earliest stages of the pandemic in January 2020, VHA began monitoring the development of COVID-19 and prepared to respond to it if and when it became a national issue. Planning activities quickly ramped up by the end of January and by early February, COVID-19 and related preparations became the focus of VHA.

In March 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic hit the United States, a VA COVID-19 Response Plan was created and approved. The stated primary purpose of the COVID-19 Response Plan was to “protect Veterans and staff from acquiring COVID-19 by leveraging technology, communications as well as using dedicated staff and space to care for COVID-19 patients.” The COVID-19 Response Plan provided VA medical centers and networks a framework for adapting health care operations.

Many of the artifacts displayed in this exhibit were innovations created by VA staff during the pandemic, some of which are still in use today. To preserve these innovations from across the organization, the VA History Office (VAHO) created a SharePoint site where VA employees could submit their COVID-19 items for consideration. Collecting was not limited to objects, but included devices, materials, ephemera, personal accounts and documents. The site was instrumental in forming the basis of the VAHO COVID-19 collection which is currently stored at the National VA History Center in Dayton, Ohio.

Check out this Curator Corner post to learn more about the interns who worked on this project and how it came together: Curator Corner - Training the next generation of history professionals is a win-win.


By Olivia Grace Holly-Johnson, Virtual Student Federal Service Intern, Veterans Health Administration, with Katie Rories, Historian, Veterans Health Administration

Additional credit to Amy Ackman, VA History Office Intern, Wright State University, Katie Pittman, Special Projects Detail to the VA History Office from VHA, Curtis Yun, VA History Office Intern, Georgetown University

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