People look out to 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 audiences to engage with the voices and stories of Peace Corps Volunteers and staff who were impacted by the global suspension of Peace Corps programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between February and March 2020, the United States Peace Corps — a volunteer service agency established by President John F. Kennedy — evacuated over 7,000 volunteers from sites in more than 60 countries.

This unique exhibit is on display 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 set for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. According to UMF COVID protocol, masks are required in all campus indoor spaces. Attendees are asked to sign in at all events for contact tracing.

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

A short documentary and an interactive map installation with oral history interview excerpts are included in the exhibit, volunteer and staff photos, 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 scroll through at a computer terminal or on their smartphones. An activity guide and other resources are also available for class and group visits.

This exhibit was developed by Olivia Donaldson, UMF associate professor of French and director of International and Global Studies, a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin from 2001-03. She developed this exhibit 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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