Harrison Fisher’s Red Cross poster (ca. 1917) from the Woodrow Wilson House Collection (courtesy the Woodrow Wilson House)

While many of us are hunkering down at home, healthcare professionals are some of the essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a gesture of appreciation to their efforts, several art institutions have been saluting doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers by sharing medical-themed artworks from their collections under the hashtag #MuseumsThankHealthHeroes.

The campaign was organized by Mara Kurlandsky and Adrienne Poon at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. The museum shared Mary Ellen Mark’s photograph “Nurses Working, Guizhou Provincial People’s Hospital, Guiyang, China” (2012) on Twitter yesterday, April 1, with the words: “Thank you to all the healthcare workers and frontline staff who are working 24/7 to keep us healthy and safe during this difficult time.”

The Whitney Museum followed with Edward Hopper’s 1900 “Study of a Nurse and Child Walking in the Park”, adding, “Today we join the museum community to thank the healthcare workers, caretakers, hospital maintenance workers, and all who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta joined the campaign with Doris Derby’s 1968 photograph “Nurse and Doctor, Health Clinic in the Mississippi Delta.” Derby, who is based in Atlanta, is is an educator, anthropologist, and photojournalist. At the time she took this photograph, she was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the Adult Literacy Project.

Alongside a number of other photographic tributes to nurses and doctors, some institutions honored healthcare workers professionals with exhibits of medical equipment and uniforms. For example, the Canadian Museum of History shared an image of a nurse’s hatpin from its Canadian Nursing History Collection. The First Corps of Cadets Museum in Boston posted an image of a 19th-century surgeon’s kit and the Museum at FIT, a fashion museum in New York, shared nurse uniform from the same period.

More abstractly, the Guggenheim Museum shared Albert Gleizes’s “Portrait of a Military Doctor” (1914-15) and the Albright-Knox Gallery posted Georges Seurat’s monochromic crayon painting “La nourrice (Nurse)” (1884–85).

The list goes on with more museums from across the globe seizing on this opportunity to pay tribute to the heroes of the day.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...