By Ginny A. Roth ~
July 23rd, 2020, was a typical hot, humid day in Washington, D.C., but unlike other summer days in the Nation’s capital there were no crowds gathering in Southeast D.C along the Capitol Riverfront, home of National’s Park. That was especially unusual because the New York Yankees were in town to play the Washington Nationals, one of the most popular east-coast rivalries in Major League Baseball’s interleague play, a regular-season game between an American League team and a National League team. But that wasn’t the most unusual thing going on that day in July.
July 2020 marked the 5th month of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States that had relegated people to their homes, restricting socialization to telephones and social media. It stands to reason that ESPN reported that a record 4 million viewers on cable had watched the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and foremost infectious disease expert in the world, Dr. Anthony Fauci, throw the first pitch at this delayed opening day game, wearing a protective face mask, against the backdrop of an empty stadium. This iconic image ran on a limited edition Topps baseball card.
The National Library of Medicine acquired one of these cards along with many other visual COVID-19 narratives it is actively collecting that tell stories of isolation, quarantine, and confusion in what has become known as A Pandemic Era:
“A little over a year ago the word pandemic was, for most people, associated with disaster movies and history books. Despite repeated warnings about the very real risk of occurrence from infectious disease experts, it felt remote and distant, not something for most people to worry about day to day. Needless to say, that experience has now been transformed almost everywhere.”
— The Lancet Planetary Health, volume 5, issue 1, January 1, 2021
Dr. Anthony Fauci, given his intense media exposure during the pandemic, has been the topic of many visual narratives including caricatures, comics, and posters. David Stokes, a graphic designer and illustrator based in Chicago, Illinois, created a set of ten Fauci trading cards in the form of traditional baseball cards to honor him as a “national hero.” Stokes says:
“…these cards offer an illuminating synopsis of Dr. Fauci’s distinguished career and provide a little levity during these challenging times, and perhaps they will reinforce the position of scientists and health care workers as the heroes of tomorrow.”
Beyond baseball, the pandemic has allowed artists a rare opportunity to share their unique perspectives during quarantine, which often reflect our own, and help us feel less isolated. The humor in their artwork also helps us cope with the severity of the situation, which is often overwhelming. Without even being acquainted with an artist, you may come to feel a connection with them simply knowing that they are experiencing the same types of situations as you might be facing, such as losing track of time, feeling alone, and not having enough toilet paper. The Library acquired the following posters from erasecovid.com which were created by a community of artists who wanted to create compelling public safety and COVID-19-related art while at the same time give back to the creative community whose livelihoods were wiped out once the pandemic hit.
Explore other posts on recent acquisitions and other posts on COVID-19 on Circulating Now.
Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine.