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Jul. 24, 2012

A Quilt to Remember

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
The AIDS Memorial Quilt was started in San Francisco in 1987 with one 3' x 6' panel. Today it measures 1.3 million square feet and weighs 54 tons. According to its caretakers, the quilt's 48,000 plus panels represent some 94,000 people who have died of AIDS, making it "the largest piece of living community art in the world." 
 
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Parts of the quilt are regularly loaned out to community groups across the country. But this year all the quilt pieces have been gathered in Washington D.C., so that the quilt can be displayed in its entirety--sort of. The NAMES Project Foundation, the quilt's keepers, says the quilt is too big to fit in one D.C. location, so for 31 days different parts of it will be on display in 60 locations throughout the city.
 
This week (until July 25) 4,800 quilt panels will be laid out throughout the capital region to coincide with the XIX International AIDS Conference taking place in the city. 
 
But a trip to D.C. isn't the only way to see the quilt. Microsoft Research Connections (along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and several other partners) has digitized the quilt, so you can click through the panels online. There's also a searchable touchscreen version. Either way, it'll take some time to take in the quilt. If you spent one minute per panel, you woul need 33 days to see the entire work, according to The Names Project Foundation.
 
For more on where to see the quilt in D.C. through the summer, and where to find specific panels, go to quilt2012.org
 
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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