Column #79

54 Tons of Quilt

The AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall. Photo by About Washington D.C.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall. Photo by About Washington D.C.


Although it can hardly be deemed a celebration, last year marked the 25th birthday of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Since it was started in 1987, the quilt has grown to include 94,000 names and 48,000 3’ x 6’ panels, each approximately the size of a human grave, and each memorializing someone who has died with the disease. It now measures 1.3 million square feet and it weighs 108,000 pounds, or 54 tons. It is the largest community art project in the world.

In the 25 years since the AIDS Memorial Quilt was first created, HIV/AIDS has reached epidemic proportions throughout the globe. According to a report published jointly by UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF, based on 2010 data, 34 million adults and children now live with HIV/AIDS, and millions have died because of it.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt has been instrumental in increasing public awareness about HIV/AIDS; it has helped raise over $4 million for AIDS service organizations; and it has been credited with helping to change misinformed and negative attitudes about the disease.

In 1989, it won an Academy Award (for Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, a 1989 documentary by Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman featuring profiles of several people memorialized in the AIDS Quilt). Also in 1989, it was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2005, it received a “Save America’s Treasures” grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As a visual reminder of AIDS’ continuing human toll, the quilt has been written about, studied, and interpreted in performance time and time again. It is arguably the most famous quilt in the world.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt has been fully displayed only three times: in 1987, 1988, and 1996, and each time was on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Because the quilt is already so enormous and continually growing larger, the only place that it is now possible to see it in one place is the internet.

The Research Division of Microsoft Corporation—partnering with the University of Southern California and the NAMES Project Foundation (the nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia that serves as the custodian of the AIDS Memorial Quilt)—has created a map of the entire quilt.

The map allows users not only to look at the quilt in its entirety, but because it is fully zoomable, any of the 94,000 names currently on the quilt can be examined as well. It is the largest digitized art quilt in the world.

Those who have made a panel for a lost loved one to include in the AIDS Memorial Quilt invariably say that doing so has helped them navigate the depths of grief. Quilts have been helping their makers heal for a very long time, but it can be said of the AIDS Quilt that it has contributed to more healing than any quilt in the world.

That fact alone is a legacy to be honored.

 

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Archived blogs:

Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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