National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History collected 24 of the white plastic flags from the public art installation designed by artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg in Fall 2020. The “In America...How Could This Happen” installation outside of RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. was designed to honor and remember the lives lost in the U.S. to COVID-19. The museum added the flags to its collection as part of its efforts to collect artifacts related to the discovery, response and loss that has continued as a result of COVID-19. Curators selected the flags as a representation of individual lives lost as well as of the diversity and complexity of how the pandemic has affected every aspect of American life. The flags collected by the museum have hand-lettered tributes to deceased family members and friends as well as to those on the front lines of the pandemic, including Filipino health care workers. During the fall of 2020, the area known as the D.C. Armory was covered in 267,080 white flags, representing the then known number of deaths attributed to COVID-19.