Written by Ioan Oprea, Conservator, Museikon / National Museum of The Union Alba Iulia (Romania, ITP Fellow 2019)
Few weeks ago I saw the check-in of a good friend at ‘The National Covid Memorial Wall’ in London and immediately I liked the idea and the gesture. I started to search more about it and found out that it was already containing more than 150,000 painted hearts, each one dedicated to a person who has passed away because of COVID-19. I continued my research and I found out more than 60 worldwide similar memorials, exhibitions and activities dedicated to those who died during the pandemic.
As many other countries, Romania was also severely affected by the pandemic and we were all a bit shocked of how easily the world can be stopped. I remember the beginning moment of the pandemic and I was thinking “this is really like in the history books,” but surprised and, of course, afraid of this fight against of an unseen enemy of humanity. The sequel was and still is dramatic, as we all know, and many lost their lives too soon.
In this context I started to think about what we, as museums, can do in such moments. So, considering we must keep on our main duty to document and save information for the future, we can also remind to people that being a living part of the society, we are also facing the pandemic together. Therefore, having London’s idea of a memorial in my mind, I proposed to our museum to create a similar memorial here in Alba Iulia.
On the 16th of May, I inaugurated with my colleagues a memorial for all the COVID victims. The memorial is near to the entrance of our museum and it is a 4-metre high wall on which I created small hearts of a special plaster on which I painted the initials of people who died because of COVID. The initiative was addressed at first to the local people of Alba Iulia, but until the inauguration moment we decided anyone who wants to dedicate a heart-symbol here at Museikon / The National Museum of The Union in Alba Iulia, Romania, can do it by simply writing to us on our page (Museikon). We also made available a register where, by the free will and with the acceptance of the dedications, a few lines can be shared and keep in the memory of those who’s initials were written on the wall.
At the moment, the memorial is unique in Romania and it will work as a permanent and continuous exhibition . From now on it will remain open and every time when a visitor will pass by, anyone can leave here a memory of a loved one lost during the pandemic.
Very different from the previous activities of the museum and in this unusual situation, we’ve seen this activity also as a social exercise and we hope for the best feedback on the local and even on the international plan. Our intention is to create a living cultural space for reunions after a pandemic that divided us too much. The place should also work as a gathering point for sharing the beautiful memories about those who are gone and a place where we can watch life in different and more grateful ways.
Until now the event was welcomed by the local institutions and mass media, also the national media took note of the event and shared it across the country.
I hope you will join our initiative and share the inauguration of this memorial. Anyone can write to us on our Facebook page (Museikon) and ask for a heart-sign memory here at Museikon in Alba Iulia for a lost loved one. In this way, maybe, we can ease the grief of those who suffered lost.