With more than 48,000 panels and 94,000 names, the AIDS quilt is a constantly growing testament to the deadly toll the disease has taken on the world. At roughly 1.3 million square feet, it is so large that it can't be displayed in its entirety in one place. Parts of it are currently on display at the National Mall, with volunteers constantly switching sections in and out.
However, there is one place with enough room to hold the entire quilt: the Internet. Microsoft Research, working with the University of Southern California and the NAMES Project Foundation, which uses the quilt as a tool to raise AIDS awareness, have created a map of the entire quilt using Bing mapping technology.
The map is fully zoomable, allowing users to zoom out to take in the full scope of the AIDS epidemic or zoom in to look at a single one of the 94,000 names, each painstakingly created by the family or friends of a loved one who died of AIDS.
According to the AIDS Memorial Quilt Website, "The quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones." While planning a march to honor assassinated San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, Jones learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had died of AIDS. He asked marchers to write the names of loved ones who had lost their lives to the disease on placards and paste them on the wall of the San Francisco Federal Building. The resulting wall ended up looking like a quilt, giving rise to the idea. "A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman."
"On October 11, 1987, the Quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It covered a space larger than a football field and included 1,920 panels."
The quilt was last displayed in its entirety at the National Mall in Washington in October 1996. Since then, its sheer size, tragically still increasing, has made such displays nearly impossible, until now. The Quilt has raised more than $4 million to fight AIDS.
To make a contribution to the NAMES Project visit their website at www.aidsquilt.org.