In Japan, folded origami paper cranes are called orizuru, in which birds’ “wings carry souls up to paradise.” A thousand folded paper cranes strung together is called a senbazuru.
The classic Japanese story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes describes the life of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was exposed to radiation during the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. After being diagnosed with leukemia, Sadako began to create senbazuru, inspired by the Japanese legend that said she would be granted a wish upon completion. In the story, Sadako managed to fold 644 cranes before she died, though friends and family helped fulfill her dream.
Associated with health and healing, folded origami cranes are also used as symbols of peace. Sadako’s original paper cranes have been displayed in Japan at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and in the United States at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, the U.S. National September 11 Memorial & Museum, and the Museum of Tolerance.
Students were invited to fold paper cranes as a collective symbol of hope, healing, and peace during difficult times. A gift of 800 cranes from a woman in California also added the project. She wrote, “Folding the cranes did bring me peace and calmness during such a crazy and uncertain time. Now that I’ve reached my 1,000, I see light at the end of the tunnel and know better days are ahead.” The cranes have been installed in the Owen D. Young Library as a way to honor and thank those in the community who have had to quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Richard F. Brush Art Gallery provided origami materials at the main desk in the Sullivan Student Center and to students in Kirk Douglas.
Please send photos of your folded paper cranes to email@example.com! We plan to post photographs to the gallery's Facebook and Instagram pages. Posting to your own IG page? Be sure to use the hashtags #origamicranes and #sluartgallery.
The paper cranes project at St. Lawrence University is inspired by the German artist Michael Pendry’s art installation of thousands of paper doves at the Washington National Cathedral on display through May 2021. For more information, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3b1i9OFUvmY.
How to make a paper crane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ux1ECrNDZl4.