Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Pandemic Past, Pandemic Present with Medical Historian Mark Honigsbaum

Archived Webinar

The Zoom webinar with medical historian Mark Honigsbaum aired May 12, 2020, as the second program in the "Contextualizing COVID-19" series. Watch a recording in the player above.


In his book, "The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris," medical historian Mark Honigsbaum narrates the last century of scientific struggle against an enduring enemy: deadly contagious disease. In this video, drawing upon the history of the influenza pandemics of the 19th and 20th centuries, Honigsbaum discusses the parallels — and contrasts — with COVID-19. The past is full of lessons that can inform the present as we forge a path forward in this current pandemic. Moderator: Sabrina Sholts, Curator of Biological Anthropology at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Contextualizing COVID-19

The global spread of COVID-19 has caused dramatic changes in our daily lives and left many wondering, “How did we get here?” and “How can we do better?” The exhibit Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World explores the factors that increase the risk that new diseases will emerge and provides an intellectual framework for understanding how viruses can spill over from animals and become a global pandemic. In conjunction with the exhibition, we hosted two programs to help put COVID-19 into context.

Related Resources


Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Life Science, Anthropology and Social Studies
Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World