On October 6th, 1996 the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was displayed for the last time in Washington DC, with 10,848 panels that covered the Washington Mall.
This was the last time the quilt could be displayed in Washington, DC. in its entirety, due to its size.
The idea for the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by AIDS activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march, in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco of his good friend Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. For the march, Jones had people write the names of loved ones that were lost to AIDS-related causes on signs that would be taped to the San Francisco Federal Building. All the signs taped to the building looked like an enormous patchwork quilt to Jones, and he was inspired.
The NAMES Project officially started in 1987 in San Francisco by Jones, Mike Smith, and volunteers Joseph Durant, Jack Caster, Gert McMullin, Ron Cordova, Larkin Mayo and Gary Yuschalk. At that time many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the deceased’s remains and were cremated. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The AIDS Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones’ lives.
To date all of the more than 48,000 panels that make up The Quilt have been professionally photographed, creating a permanent visual record of the most compelling symbol of the AIDS pandemic.
You can view the quilt online by visiting http://www.aidsquilt.org/