Journal of a Plague Year: Illinois in 2020

Rapid response exhibition featuring Illinoisians' COVID-19 experiences

September 11, 2020 to December 31, 2020

In April, the ISM launched Share Your Story: Illinois in the COVID-19 Pandemic, a collecting initiative asking the people of Illinois to share their pandemic experiences. To date, the ISM has received hundreds of submissions from people trying to make sense of a world turned upside down. 

Journal of a Plague Year: Illinois in 2020, a dynamic exhibition, features highlights from the entries received and will reflect new submissions as they come into the Museum. The title, inspired by Daniel Defoe’s 1722 book Journal of a Plague Year, was chosen to put the current COVID-19 pandemic in the context of historical pandemics, or "plagues,"  as well as allude to a common feeling, popularized in the media, that this year's pandemic and its fallout have made 2020 extraordinarily challenging.

Springfield-based photographer Zach Adams was one of the first people to submit to the ISM's collecting initiative. Initially, he began by documenting life at home with his daughter during the quarantine. He then expanded his subject matter to include images of local protests and rallies. The ISM's front porch serves as the backdrop for several of his images that document Springfield's demonstrations on equal justice. These images will be up through November 30.

Inside the ISM, visitors can view more than 20 selections of photos, artwork, poetry, and prose from the COVID collecting project. These submissions create a mosaic reflective of the people of Illinois' thoughts and feelings navigating a world changed by COVID. 

You can view all of the submissions to the Share Your Story initiative through the Illinois Digital Archives here. You can submit your own experiences here

Woman in surgical mask, goggles, and hair bonnet.
  • Woman in surgical mask, goggles, and hair bonnet.
  • Sculpture of Humpty Dumpty with surgical mask.
  • Black and white photograph of a young girl in a mask.


Erika Holst,
Temporary Exhibitions
Visitor Information
502 South Spring Street
Springfield (217) 782-7386
Admission: Free
Museum: Tues-Sat: 10-4:00
MacLean Play Museum: Closed unitl Further Notice
All Facilities Closed: New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.