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Cape Ann Museum holds online opening for COVID-19 memorial

The Cape Ann Museum COVID 19 Memorial, including video art by LuminArtz, a memorial quilt, and the Cape Ann Cairns memorial, constructed by people who have lost loved ones to the virus that was declared a pandemic one year ago.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

One year after a state of emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester dedicated a temporary art installation to local victims during an online ceremony on Wednesday.

The installation honors at least 41 people from Gloucester, 61 people from elsewhere on Cape Ann, and more than 2,000 people from Essex County who have died from COVID-19, Oliver Barker, director of the Cape Ann Museum, said during the 6 p.m. ceremony

“The impact is simply too high to comprehend,” he said. “Tonight, we honor their memory. We grieve together as a community, and we take the next step toward the long process of healing and recovery.”


The ceremony, which was livestreamed on Facebook and Vimeo, opened with a rendition of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” by Brian King and Nathan Cohen and a poem by Caroline Harvey.

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and state Senator Bruce Tarr spoke , reflecting on the impact of the pandemic over the past year.

“I will always remember and honor those 41 lives lost in Gloucester due to COVID-19,” Theken said during the nearly hour-long ceremony. “As a mother, grandmother, healthcare advocate, and mayor, I take these hardships and losses to heart.”

Tarr, the senate’s Republican minority leader, noted the importance of holding a memorial service for the victims.

“It is imperative that we remember the loss and the tragedy and the suffering that has occurred so that we can understand it, so that we can come to grips with it, and so that we support all who have suffered from it,” he said.

The museum installation is meant to provide people with a safe place to grieve, Miranda Aisling, the museum’s education manager, said.

“All of our traditional forms of grieving are exactly what we are told not to do in order to keep each other safe,” she said. “But still, we must grieve.”


The memorial is comprised of three parts—a video art installation, the Cape Ann Cairns Memorial, and the Gloucester Memorial Quilt, Aisling said.

The quilt, which memorializes the victims from Gloucester, was coordinated by the museum and Roseanne Cody, a board member on the Gloucester Council on Aging, Aisling said. The names on the quilt were embroidered by Dianne Taormina of Monograms by Diane, and the quilt was stitched together by Ingrid Schillebeeckx-Rice.

The cairns, which were built with help from Cape Ann Tree Service, honor the victims from Cape Ann, Aisling said.

When the memorial is complete, the stones will be incorporated in the wall that wraps around the site, she said. Visitors are encouraged to bring flowers, small stones, or tokens to add to the cairns.

A video art installation created by Boston-based artist Pamela Hersch and LuminArtz puts the memorial in the regional and national context, Aisling said.

The installation depicts more than 2,000 souls moving from the ground to the sky every two minutes, representing each person in Essex county who has died from COVID-19, Hersch said.

“We get used to the numbers we hear each day, but each of these numbers represents such profound loss for so many,” she said.