My Covid-19 Memorial Project

April 27, 2020

In the less than three months, 55,417 people have died in the United States from Covid-19. To give some perspective, the Vietnam War lost 58,209 over 20 years.

Like many people, I am outraged by the stupidity and the inept response of our federal government. What makes me really lose my mind is that the deaths are diminished with the explanation that most people were old or had other health conditions. The standard narrative is that they were going to die anyway and this just made it happen sooner so it’s not really that big a deal. 

For me, the last straw was listening to a news story about the funeral industry. One funeral director was encouraging people who had a family member pass away at home to immediately hold a small funeral before the coroner came to take the body. Light a candle, say a prayer, read a something meaningful and say goodbye because there was not going to be a proper funeral. These families were lucky because they were able to spend time with their loved one before they passed. Anyone who dies in the hospital or nursing facility is not allowed to have a person who cares for them at their bedside when they pass. It truly breaks my heart.  

I realized after listening to that news story that I wanted to give some visual sense of how many have died because it’s a VERY big number. I decided to create a memorial. 

I began by playing with paper doll chains but decided that they were too gender specific. I switched to thinking about other shapes and landed on the idea of a house since we are all forced to stay at home. Creating a paper house chain led me to the idea of creating an accordion book and the project gelled together at that point. 

I’ve committed myself to make one book for each 1000 people who have died. Each page represents 10 souls lost and each book has 100 pages. 

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I chose the image of a coffin instead of a door because each person had a home and a family but it is as if they have just vanished into thin air from the home. We do not see the funeral processions. We do not see the places of worship filled with mourners. We do not see the graveyards crowded with families and friends showing their last respects.

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I wish I could create one page per person but that is far beyond my physical capacity. It would require working 8 hours every day for 103 days just to catch up with the death toll we have today. As it is, I can manage about five books a week, so I will hopefully catch up in the next few weeks. Another deep regret is that I don’t have the ability or time to research the names and list the dead because each person who died truly deserves to be named. The materials I am using to create the books are what I have in abundance on hand…printer paper and glue sticks. I am cutting everything out by hand with an exacto knife. 

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When we are past this terrible crisis, I hope to set up my memorial in total to show the enormity of the loss we have experienced.  In the meantime, here is a small installation of my Covid-19 Memorial representing 10,000 deaths. What you see are 10 books consisting of 100 pages each. One page represents 10 deaths. 

A huge thank you goes to Adele Sanborn for allowing me to install and photograph the partial memorial at Twiggs Gallery in Boscawen, NH. The gallery has been closed due to Covid-19 for several weeks.

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Each page remembers 10 souls lost. Each book has one hundred pages. Each book memorializes 1000 deaths.

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I’m committed to this working on this memorial as long as people are dying. It’s a grim and heartbreaking project to say the least. However, I am hopeful that there will be some point of time in the near future when we can all breathe a sigh of relief and I will be able to complete this project.

Until then…I’ll keep working…and working…and working…

Laura Morrison is an artist living and working in New Hampshire, USA. You can see more of her work at LauraMorrisonArt.com