On Wednesday, the NAMES Project Foundation (NPF) announced at a Washington DC press conference that the AIDS Memorial Quilt will return to San Francisco next year. The journey will be a coming home for the quilt as it first began in the California city in 1987. With its relocation, the quilt will be transferred from the care of the NPF, which is based in Atlanta, to that of the National AIDS Memorial. The quilt will then become part of the Center for Social Conscience, which has been in planning by the National AIDS Memorial for a few years now.
The quilt began as a memorial to the people who fell victim to the AIDS epidemic that took hold of the world in the 1980s, hitting its height in the late 80s. When AIDS first struck the US, the government largely ignored the issue fueling the stigma against the main people affected by it: gay men. As of 2018, approximately 37.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) or AIDS. At that time, an estimated 1.7 million of those cases were new proving that the AIDS crisis is still very much so an issue today.
When the epidemic hit its peak in the US, a group of strangers came together at a San Francisco storefront to remember those they had lost to the epidemic. They then went on to create a memorial for those who they’d lost, thus the AIDS Memorial Quilt was begun. It started as just one quilt but today, it has grown to include more than 50,000 three by six-foot sections and over 105,000 names of those who have passed away from the disease. The quilt is now one of the largest displays of folk art created by a community. Sections of the quilt has travelled the world and it has also been spread across the National Mall in Washington, DC so that millions around the globe can pay their respects.
During its time on display, the quilt has accumulated a large number of newspaper clippings, photographs, and other biographical items as offerings in relation to the people listed on the quilt. With the quilt’s move to San Francisco, those items will find a new home at the Library of Congress in DC. Additionally, the NAMES Project Foundation has ‘I feel very strongly that this is perhaps one of the most democratic memorials in existence because it’s literally made by the people for the people they love,’ president and chief executive of the NAMES Project Foundation, Julie Rhoad, told The New York Times. ‘The life of that person is on the quilt itself, but the survivors’ stories and the families’ stories are tied to the archives.’
‘This announcement honors the stewardship by the NAMES Project Foundation over the past three decades in passionately caring for the quilt and ensures its permanent home will continue to forever honor its history, the lives, struggles, despair, inequity and hope that it represents,’ said executive director of the National AIDS Memorial, John Cunningham in a press release for the announcement.
Watch the entire announcement below: