The AIDS Memorial Quilt is going digital for World AIDS Day.
The National AIDS Memorial, the caretaker of the quilt, is inviting individuals, businesses, and nonprofits across the United States to participate in a pioneering virtual exhibition.
In past years, the memorial worked with partners to create thousands of displays showcasing portions of the quilt, a moving memorial that pays tribute to victims of the AIDS crisis within its panels, timed to World AIDS Day.
Since this is now impossible due to COVID-19, display hosts are invited this year to curate quilt selections in a digital space organized by state, which can be viewed online for the world to see. This will also be the first-ever 50-state exhibition of the quilt.
John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial, hopes this virtual exhibition will send a vital message during a new pandemic.
"World AIDS Day is taking on new meaning this year, as COVID-19 has brought an enormous loss of life and grief to millions of people," said Cunningham in a statement. "During the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, the quilt was a source of immense comfort, inspiration and used as a tool for social activism to open the eyes of the nation to injustice and to help survivors grieve and heal. Through this exhibition, we hope the power and beauty of the quilt can serve that same purpose for those who are experiencing loss and grief due to COVID-19."
"Even though nothing can replace seeing our beautiful quilt in person, this virtual exhibition allows us to still share the Quilt and its stories just as we have done for past three decades around World AIDS Day," added Gert McMullan, a quilt cofounder and conservator at the National AIDS Memorial.
The intersections of the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics will also take center stage at World AIDS Day 2020, A National Conversation, a virtual event organized by National AIDS Memorial on December 1 featuring panelists and performers.
The $500 fee for virtual display hosts, which must be received by November 1, will go toward the caretaking of the quilt. The free exhibition will launch November 16 and will run through March 31. Learn more at AIDSMemorial.org/virtual2020, the URL where the exhibition will also live.
Earlier this year, a digitized, interactive version of the quilt was launched on the same website, where all 48,000 panels are available for viewing.