Make the Most of Memorial Day | Mechanics' Institute

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Make the Most of Memorial Day

Since its inception just after the Civil War, Americans have observed Memorial Day in a variety of ways: with commemorations and cemetery visits, veterans’ parades and backyard barbecues, flags flown from front porches and red poppies sported in lapels—and, since the Monday Holiday Act of 1971, by staying home from work. But one way we have never marked this bittersweet day of remembrance is digitally—until now. To help you celebrate Memorial Day 2020, here are a few events and activities to access via computer or smartphone:

National Memorial Day Concert

On Sunday, May 24, PBS presents its 31st annual Memorial Day concert honoring members of the U.S. armed forces. Perennially one of the network’s most popular broadcasts, the show is co-hosted this year by Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise, with appearances by top-name musicians and actors (Renée Fleming, Sam Elliott, Laurence Fishburne, et al.) and a tribute to those on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. Sunday, May 24, 8 p.m. PST, KQED.Memorial for Us All

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York livestreams weekly Sunday performances to commemorate lives lost to COVID-19. On Sunday, May 24, the program will feature Broadway singer/actress Kelli O’Hara; videos of past performances by artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis can be viewed on the Lincoln Center website. Names of loved ones who have died in the pandemic can be submitted online and will be mentioned in the show on Sunday, May 24, 3 p.m. PDT. Access the event on the Lincoln Center Instagram page, YouTube channel, Facebook page, or website.  

Parade of Heroes

On Monday, May 25, the genealogy site Ancestry sponsors a free virtual commemoration of Memorial Day. Kathie Lee Gifford hosts this 45-minute event featuring musical performances, veteran interviews, and a tribute to the 75th anniversary of World War II. Monday, May 25, 8 a.m. PDT. Live stream on Facebook at Ancestry - Parade of Heroes or view later at  

(And speaking of Ancestry, MI’s subscription to the library edition of is available for use from home while you’re sheltering in place. To research your own family’s military (or other) history, start by accessing our Ancestry Library database:

Memorial Day Commemoration, Presidio of San Francisco

Throughout Memorial Day weekend, the Presidio Trust invites you to visit the website of the historic fort-turned-park. Although the traditional ceremonies in the Presidio’s National Cemetery won’t take place this year, the site offers relevant videos (including one featuring Willie Mays at the 2019 event), a photographic history of Memorial Day at the Presidio over the past 150 years, and instructions for crafting red poppies from construction paper.

The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Ulysses S. Grant, the renowned general who led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War and subsequently served as the 18th U.S. president, was also the author of a set of memoirs that has never been out of print since its publication in 1885. Click on the link(s) above to download this ever-popular autobiography in eAudiobook format. 

StoryCorps Military Voices

The StoryCorps ongoing oral history project includes an initiative dedicated to military veterans’ stories. Click here to watch a moving series of short video interviews with veterans and families or to find out how to record your own.

Finally, Memorial Day can be observed this year, as always, on Monday at 3 p.m. local time—with a completely tech-free moment of silence.



Posted on May. 22, 2020 by Autumn Stephens