Gary Johnson: Mask Man

       Classic Chicago Salutes Today





By Judy Carmack Bross



Gary Johnson, President of Chicago’s oldest cultural organization The Chicago History Museum and its staff, receives our first weekly salute to heroes meeting the most urgent demands in the fight against COVID-19, executed in the most impactful and creative ways.


Gary Johnson

 We asked Johnson to tell us how in just 72 hours the Museum responded to our local medical community’s desperately short supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) by donating 6300 pairs of gloves, 90 face masks and other much-needed  safety products to John Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

 “Continuing to fight the spread of COVID-19 is a responsibility we all share. We realized that the PPE that we use at the museum everyday was needed at area hospitals. At the Chicago History Museum, we use nitrile gloves every day to protect museum artifacts from oils and other contaminates on hands – not to mention to protect our collections and exhibitions staff from any potential hazardous substances that may sit on the artifacts upon acquisition (think: lead, radium, asbestos)! N95 facemasks, eye protection, and polyethylene aprons are also used to protect staff during conservation treatment of artifacts. 

“Museums around the globe purchase PPE for these very reasons. While we are closed to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our supplies are best utilized by the healthcare workers on the frontlines at the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

 “Our Britta Arendt, Collection Manager at the Chicago History Museum, met with Daniel J. Ruiz, Senior Manager of Supply Chain Operations at the hospital to drop off a donation of the following supplies: 

  • 63 boxes of nitrile gloves in all sizes, 6,300 pairs total
  • 9 boxes of N95 masks, 90 masks total
  • 100 polyethylene aprons
  • 20 pairs of shoe covers
  • 16 tyvek hoodies
  • 4 tyvek coverall suits 
  • 8 pairs protective eye wear 



 “Our sincerest gratitude goes to Britta Arendt and Holly Lundberg, among other Collections and Exhibitions staff, for their compassion and quick action to make this vital donation possible.

“We at the Chicago History Museum recognize that in these challenging times we are all hoping to lend a helping hand and be part of the solution that will contribute to the health and safety of all Chicagoans. We’re all in this together, and this donation personal protective equipment is a small act that we hope will be part of a big recovery.”

CHM’s Rachel Hatch highlighted the timeline from when the idea came to light and then was executed upon in virtually 72 hours:

Friday (3/20) – email exchanges about the possibility of a donation
Saturday (3/21) – inventory of the PPE at Clark Street
Sunday (3/22) – correspondence with CHM staff involved, and Britta corresponds with Dr. Michael Hoffman Medical Director of Stroger Hospital to determine delivery time and place.
Monday (3/23) – PPE is packed up and delivered to the hospital by 11:00am

The Chicago History Museum is filled with inspiration and information on our past heroes, from Abraham Lincoln to those who survived the Chicago Fire, built the Columbian Exposition and each nationality that created its own legacy.

Today we focus with pride on current Chicago heroes and salute the Museum and its staff for its life-giving response in record time.