In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The idea for the Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. Jones after learning that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. He asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS. Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.
Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial. A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman. Response to the Quilt was immediate. People in the U.S. cities most affected by AIDS — Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — sent panels to the San Francisco workshop. Generous donors rapidly supplied sewing machines, equipment and other materials, and many volunteered tirelessly.
The mission of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Archive Project is to preserve the powerful images and stories of our fallen brothers and sisters and expand our AIDS awareness and HIV prevention education efforts.
To date all more than 48,000 panels make up The AIDS Quilt, creating a permanent visual record of the AIDS pandemic.
You can visit the massive memorial by clicking HERE and remember those who were casualties the disease that wiped out almost an entire generation of gay men during the most horrific time that our community has ever faced.
God bless them all.
*Digital viewing made possible by the Microsoft Research Connections partnered with the University of Southern California Annenberg Innovation Lab, Brown University, University of Iowa, National Endowment for the Humanities, NAMES Project Foundation, and others.