Editor’s Note: Dr. Emily Godbey is a professor of art and visual culture at Iowa State University. In this article, she discusses how plague monuments were used to commemorate victims of past disease outbreaks. She also looks at temporary memorials for COVID-19 and examines why plague memorials are not as prolific as war memorials.
Which disease outbreaks have been memorialized around the world?
Diseases like the bubonic plague, cholera, the 1918 influenza pandemic (“Spanish Flu”), AIDS, and even SARS have monuments, although some are more modest than others.
They are relatively uncommon, however, when compared with monuments to wars, political regimes, and more visible tragedies, such as 9/11 or the Holocaust. However, they are present in many places.
What are some notable plague monuments and what do they commemorate?
The bubonic plague broke out several times in different parts of the world between the 6th century BC and the 19th