Queens COVID Remembrance Day Exhibit


Friday, February 25, 2022

Contact: Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, ekern@queenslibrary.org


Queens Memory Presents “Queens COVID Remembrance Day” Exhibit at Elmhurst Library


The Exhibit Features 270 Portraits of Queens Residents Lost to COVID


Elmhurst, NY - Queens Memory - a community archiving program supported by Queens Public Library and the Queens College Library – today announced the opening of “Queens COVID Remembrance Day” exhibit at Elmhurst Library. The branch, at 86-07 Broadway, is located in a neighborhood that was the “epicenter of the epicenter” of COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic.

The exhibit, presented on the two-year anniversary of pandemic shutdowns across New York City, will be on view from March 1 through April 30. It consists of 270 portraits of Queens residents who died from COVID-19. The 12”x 18” images suspended inside a structural glass reading room were created by 17-year-old artist Hannah Ernst who began drawing portraits of COVID-19 victims after the loss of her grandfather, Calvin “Cal” Schoenfeld, in May 2020.

Ernst’s work has become an iconic symbol in the COVID-loss community. With the help of her mother Karen, she created a Facebook community named Faces of COVID Victims, featuring over 2,500 portraits drawn by her. Elegantly capturing the spirit of lost loved ones, Ernst worked with their families to accentuate unique details: a favorite baseball cap, glasses, or a carefully shaded salt-and-pepper beard.

The first Queens COVID Remembrance Day, a solemn day of pause and reflection to ensure that loved ones have not been forgotten amid the ever-rising toll of the pandemic, was held on May 1, 2021. It was organized by a committee of borough residents who lost family members to COVID-19 and featured portraits of Queens residents drawn by Ernst, placed on the empty benches of Forest Park as a visual representation of the tremendous loss endured by the borough’s community.

The display at Elmhurst Library will serve as a site for collective remembering – a community memorial honoring and celebrating all those lost to COVID-19. 

“We have experienced time passing in new ways during the pandemic. This month-long exhibit, held two years after our city was thrown into an emergency response to COVID-19, is an opportunity to hold both space and time to acknowledge all we have lived through, and those we have lost,” said Natalie Milbrodt, QPL’s Coordinator of Metadata Services and the founding Director of the Queens Memory Project. “We are proud to work with our community partners to plan the exhibit and are grateful to the team at Elmhurst Library for hosting this evocative memorial.”

“What began as one young artist’s endeavor to capture the essence of her grandfather inside a framed portrait sparked a viral movement that first traveled online and now offline in public spaces inaccessible during the pandemic,” said J. Faye Yuan, Queens Memory Curator. “Now hung across a library’s reading room, this community memorial is a testament to the healing powers of public art – art that empowers us to witness grief as an artifact of love. Together.”

“The pandemic has left an indelible mark on the lives of so many families who lost a loved one to COVID-19. We organized the first Queens COVID Remembrance Day during a time when those families needed a space for healing, acknowledgement and support,” said EmyLou A.S. Rodriguez, Co-Chair of the Queens COVID Remembrance Day Committee. “We are grateful to Faces of COVID Victims and Queens Public Library for creating this memorial space to continue to honor the memory of those we've lost, especially now that the world tries to move on to some semblance of normalcy. For those of us who suffered loss, our lives will never be the same.”   

Queens Memory invites the public to contribute to this community memorial. Customers can use the below QR code or visit queenslib.org/queensmemorial to upload their photos and the story of someone they wish to memorialize. The Queens Memory Project will share these contributions on their website: queenslib.org/covid.

QR code

The exhibit serves as a continuation of the Queens Memory’s efforts to document the experiences of borough’s residents during the pandemic, which began in April 2020 as part of its COVID-19 Project.


About Queens Memory

Queens Memory is an ongoing community archiving program supported by Queens Public Library and Queens College, CUNY. We engage with Queens residents in our two-fold mission to (1) push local history collections out to the public through programming and online resources, and (2) pull new materials into our collections from the diverse communities of Queens. The goal is to raise awareness and a sense of ownership in the production of our shared historic record and our dream is that any Queens resident who visits these collections feels his/her experiences and perspective are represented. Queens Memory also provides training and materials for anyone wishing to contribute oral history interviews, photographs, or other records of his/her neighborhoods, families, and communities. These materials get a permanent home in the Archives and are shared back with the public on a variety of platforms including Aviary, Urban Archive, our podcast series, Instagram, and in the archival repositories of Queens Public Library and Queens College’s Rosenthal Library. Queens Memory was founded in 2010 and has been honored with the 2014 Archivists Round Table Award for Educational Use of Archives and the  2019 New York State Archives’ Debra E. Bernhardt Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Documenting New York’s History.


About Queens Public Library

Queens Public Library is one of the largest and busiest public library systems in the United States, dedicated to serving the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in the country. An independent, non-profit organization founded 125 years ago, QPL offers free access to a collection of more than 5 million books and other materials in multiple languages, technology and digital resources, and more than 80,000 educational, cultural, and civic programs annually. QPL consists of 66 locations across the borough, including branch libraries, a Central Library, seven adult learning centers, a technology center, and two teen centers, and attracted more than 11 million visitors in 2019.