“Pandemics Move the World Forward: A History of Progression via Pandemic” by Harold Johnson


This project argues that pandemics have the ability to move the world forward in ways such as causing economic shifts, leading to new medical innovations, and stimulating changes to current religious ideas. By examining past pandemics, such as the bubonic plague, the influenza outbreak of 1918, and smallpox, Harold’s project demonstrates how humanity has risen to the challenge pandemics create. Through innovations, inventions, and societal changes, pandemics are often the catalyst for significant changes in the world. As the world wrestles with COVID-19, it is good to remind ourselves of humanity’s resilience and consider the pandemic’s lasting results.

This project began with the goal of showing how the plague in 1347 led to the Protestant Reformation. Harold did not imagine creating a project about pandemics while the world wrestled with a pandemic. Still, the longer COVID-19 upended daily life he felt people would have an interest in reading something optimistic about pandemics. He created this project with the general public in mind but also wanted to create something historians would appreciate.

Black nurses serving at Camp Sherman after being denied entry into service for years

Harold created a StoryMap, believing them to be the best platform to engage the reader with an accessible format. He approached the page design using the language of exhibits, based on Chapter 5 of the book, Introduction to Public History by Cherstin Lyon, Elizabeth Nix, and Rebecca Strum. The big idea of this digital project is “pandemics move the world forward.” Despite their horrible consequences, pandemics shaped our lives and provide needed innovation to protect future generations. Harold invites visitors to view medieval Europe and imagine themselves living through the plague of 1347. I wanted to capture the feeling of desperation and despair while always reminding the visitor that humanity does persevere no matter how dark the situation appears. Smallpox posed the largest challenge when it came to American settlement. In many cases of pandemics, progress comes at a high human cost and I wanted to make sure that tragedy wasn’t lost in the “big idea.

You can view Harold’s StoryMap by clicking the link here.

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