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NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt


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The AIDS Memorial Quilt is an enormous quilt made as a memorial to and celebration of the lives of people who have died of AIDS-related causes.

The Quilt is maintained and displayed by The NAMES Project Foundation and was started in 1987 in San Francisco by Cleve Jones and a group of volunteers. At the time of its creation, most people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals and their remains were in fact refused by many funeral homes and cemeteries. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones' lives. The Quilt was last displayed in full on The Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1996.

Typically very personalized, individual quilt panels are created by the loved ones of someone who has died of AIDS-related causes. Each 3' by 6' panel is the size of a human grave and the panels are donated to The NAMES Project Foundation where they are grouped with other similar panels and assembled into 12' by 12' sections, called "blocks". These blocks are what are seen at local displays of The Quilt, and typically contain 8 individual panels.

The creation of a panel can be very emotional as memorable photos, favorite sayings, or favorite pieces of clothing of the deceased are attached to the panel. Displays of The Quilt can be somber experiences as people view the panels, make connections with those memorialized and realize the tragic loss of life.

In observance of National HIV-Testing Day in June 2004 the 1,000 newest blocks were displayed by the Foundation on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. This was the largest display of The Quilt since it was last displayed in its entirety in October 1996. In fact, the 1,000 blocks displayed consisted of every panel submitted at or after the 1996 display.

Techniques used included patchwork, applique, embroidery, fabric painting, collage, spray paint and needlepoint.

Items and materials included in the panels:

  • Fabrics, e.g. lace, suede, leather, mink, taffeta, also Bubble Wrap and other kinds of plastic and even metal.
  • Decorative items like pearls, quartz crystals, rhinestones, sequins, feathers, buttons.
  • Clothing, e.g. jeans, T-shirts, gloves, boots, hats, uniforms, jackets, flip-flops.
  • Items of a personal nature, such as human hair, cremation ashes, wedding rings, merit badges and other awards, car keys.
  • Unusual items, e.g. stuffed animals, records, jockstraps, condoms and a bowling ball.

The NAMES Project Foundation is now headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, but has 21 chapters in the United States and more than 40 affiliate organisations world-wide. The AIDS Memorial Quilt itself is also housed in Atlanta when not being displayed, and continues to grow, currently consisting of 5,748 blocks (more than 44,000 individual memorial panels).

The NAMES Project was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

On December 1, 2006, a “Digital Quilt”, commemorating the original AIDS Memorial Quilt, was unveiled as part of Project Stitch [1], a youth-targeted initiative organised by AIDS Vancouver, an AIDS service organisation based in Vancouver, Canada, along with other community partners. Project Stitch and the Digital Quilt are a continuing initiative, with submissions to the quilt being made online and at educational workshops for youth.

Artistic Influence

The Quilt is the subject of the 1989 Academy Award-winning documentary film Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.

In 2001, D.C.'s Different Drummers (DCDD) and the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington (LGCW) jointly commissioned a piece, Quilt Panels, from composer Robert Maggio, in honor of World AIDS Day. The piece premiered December 1st, 2003, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland.[2]

The NAMES Project was also the basis for the musical Quilt, A Musical Celebration [3].


  • Krisberg, Kim. "Remembering through music", The Washington Blade, 2003-11-21. Retrieved on 2007-01-01. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "NAMES_Project_AIDS_Memorial_Quilt". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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