'Living with viruses': informing and educating the public against all conspiracy odds

Dominick Verschelde, Hanne Windels, Kathy Messens, Mieke Uyttendaele, Andrew Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


There is hope to get the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) under control, but it will continue to leave its marks on the global society. Adapting to a new way of working and communicating has influenced everyone, including the (university) museum community.

Wanting to address the public’s call for information, and its fear resulting from the stream of disinformation on the internet, in the media, and from rising conspiracy theories, we engaged ourselves to inform teachers and students on ‘living with viruses’, and organized debate sessions in the university museum.

In a cooperation between the University of Ghent Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, and the Ghent University Museum an educational master’s thesis was written out to find a way to educate the public on the biology of viruses, and their impact on society, in order to arm the public against misinformation, and wrongly induced fear due to the present ‘infodemic’ and conflicting reports related to these coronaviruses providing fuel to conspiracy theories. This information is aided by emphasizing scientific method and critical thinking. As a result a teacher’s package was produced enabling teachers to address the subject with secondary school students, and a follow-up debate in the Ghent University Museum.

We propose a way for university collections to inform and engage the general public and students in debate in order to ensure critical scientific thinking, and induce calmness and reason instead of fear of unknowns and uncertainties. This kind of debate and reflection can be used in any type of collection or object. A well-prepared debate is a strong means to have people open to informed decision-making and reflect on other points of view, and angles of perception. Hence we invite the entire UMAC community to join and to give their thoughts and ideas on the subject. This approach has been developed at the University of Ghent. UMAC Board member, Andrew Simpson, will moderate the session.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63
Number of pages1
JournalUniversity Museums and Collections Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
EventUMAC-UNIVERSEUM 2021: New Opportunities & New Challenges in Times of COVID-19 - On-line
Duration: 1 Sept 20213 Sept 2021


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    Andrew Simpson (Organiser)

    1 Sept 20213 Sept 2021

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference, workshop or event series

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