New York City is the current epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, its citizens in nonessential professions ordered to stay home in an attempt to slow the virus’s deadly march and prevent a catastrophic overload of the local health care system. Images of a city stripped of people are sobering in their eerie solitude.
Politicans, celebrities, and civic leaders have been spreading the word about why such drastic measures are necessary and how each of us has a role to play in combatting a disease with no vaccine or cure. New York City’s Poster House has redirected its education efforts by encouraging the city’s denizens to look out for one another through a series of specially-designed posters, for which the museum turned to designer Rachel Gingrich. Bathed in cobalt blue and rendered in a punchy collage style, Gingrich’s three digital-only posters are available for downloaded here.
Earlier this week, Poster House released another series of PSA posters by its in-house designer Mihoshi Fukushima Clark, also available for download. Clark’s surprisingly upbeat series focuses on spreading the facts on social distancing and proper handwashing while also addressing the feelings of loneliness and isolation many of us are experiencing. As the virus has spread, so too, unfortunately, have xenophobia and anti-Asian racism. After learning about an increase in attacks on Asians, Clark created this series in an effort to remind viewers that we are all in this together.
Having only opened to the public last summer, Poster House is the first museum in the United States wholly devoted to exploring the history of posters and their role in shaping public perception on everything from cigarettes to disease prevention. Posters are designed to present information quickly, and successful posters convey their messages in five seconds or less.
In conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition on Chinese propaganda The Sleeping Giant, Poster House had been in the midst of a project collaboration with stir-fry doyenne and James Beard award-winner Grace Young. That project has been put on hold, but as word got out about racial discrimination due to fears concerning Covid-19, Young went to Chinatown to document the toll on the Asian community. Filmed on March 15, less than 48 hours before Mayor de Blasio mandated all city restaurants to close, Part 1 shows Young walking through a neighborhood at the vanguard of what would soon envelop the entire country. The scenes feel like they were shot a lifetime ago.
Stay strong, stay safe, readers: We will get through this, together.
Word spread yesterday via electronic listservs frequented by rare book dealers, collectors, and librarians that a New York International Antiquarian Book Fair exhibitor tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The NYIABF was held March 5-8, just as the virus began appearing in the city. As expected, the news caused a flurry of anxious replies to the thread. In response, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America released this statement:
“We have no authority to reveal the identity of the individual … diagnosed in their home country yesterday, 11 days after being at the fair. An officer of the ABAA contacted a state Department of Infectious Disease who has confirmed that given our exposure to all of those at the NYIABF and surrounding activities, the most important thing for people to be doing at this time is to continue social distancing, monitor your individual health and if you have concerns about your personal health contact your health care provider or physician.”
Then, this morning, we heard from the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that more exhibitors were affected and have given permission to share their status, including Pom Harrington of London’s Peter Harrington and ILAB’s secretary, Angelika Elstner, who is based in South Africa. Harrington said in a statement, “Angelika and I both returned from New York sick as did Adrian Harrington, Alicia Bardon, Dan Whitmore, and James Cummins, Jr. I know there are others poorly. Angelika fortunately managed to get tested in Cape Town which is better than the rest of us, and had a positive result. It is reasonable to assume the rest of us here are also positive for Coronavirus. We are all recovering well and some are recovered already. To everyone else, if you have symptoms you must isolate yourself.”
As for the delay in relaying this information, ILAB president Sally Burdon emphasized the “as soon as Angelika’s test was returned positive no time was wasted in letting both the ABAA and ILAB know. Angelika tried to get tested immediately on her return but her doctor told her she did not have COVID-19 but to stay at home and rest. It was only because of a change in circumstances in South Africa where she lives that she was able to get a test and she went to get the test literally at the very first opportunity. My understanding is that others named were not able to get tested. Getting a test in many countries is not easy and in some countries not possible at all if you do not have extreme symptoms.”
Burdon continued, “I would like to thank Pom Harrington, Angelika Elstner and the others he named for coming forward in this way and hope that everyone will understand how very difficult this situation is and support them and all of our colleagues who are ill at this time. This is not something anyone would wish for. Pom’s email emphasises the international nature of the virus and while telling us that no one is immune it also reminds us we are all in this together and need to act accordingly. I also have also heard anecdotally that the Maastricht Fair also has had people return ill from it. As we all know this virus is prevalent.”