Site-specific installation and performance by Martha McDonald at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Oct. 17, 2015. Hospital Hymn conjured the Portrait Gallery's history as a temporary hospital for soldiers during the American Civil War, where Walt Whitman worked as a nurse. Inspired by Whitman's notebooks from the period, the piece memorialized the war's quarter million unknown dead. Whitman suggests that their bodies became the compost of the nation--their spirits imbued in every stalk of wheat, blade of grass and flower that sprung from the dark fields of battle. McDonald enacted a ritual releasing thousands of handmade felt flowers, referencing Whitman's compost imagery and drawing on the language of Victorian mourning handcrafts to suggest the enormity of loss. Accompanied by Craig Woodward on fiddle and concertina, McDonald sang 19th-century hymns that Whitman recalled hearing nurses sing to dying soldiers.