AIDS Memorial Quilt Now Viewable Online So You Can Cry in Front of Your Computer, Too

Kate’s Team Pick:

If you haven’t been able to see the AIDS Memorial Quilt in person, it is now available online in a new format that finally allows viewers to experience the incredible scale and scope of the quilt. The quilt is the result of the NAMES project, started in 1987 by a small group in San Francisco, dedicated to preserving the legacy of those who had lost their lives to HIV/AIDS in a period when the disease’s stigma was at its height. The quilt has been displayed across the country in community centers, public spaces, and most prominently, on the National Mall. There are currently more than 48,000 panels in the quilt.

Examples of close-up patches.

Up close, each individual patch is a personalized tribute to the friends, family, partners, and beloved members of our community who have been lost. I zoomed in at random, and found myself face to face with grinning boys in leather jackets, painstakingly embroidered rose petals, and messages from the ones they left behind. To say that it is an emotional experience is an understatement, and the personal impact of loss depicted so beautifully in color and heartfelt message brought some serious butch tears to these eyes.

Being able to see the quilt in its entirety is probably the most intense experience of the project to date. Never before have we been able to see the exact scale of the quilt, and it is massive. To finally witness the scope of this disease and its impact on an entire community is, short of nothing else, devastating. More butch tears ensued.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt in its entirety.

View the quilt online, or if you’d like to see it in person, it is still touring the country. For more on the history of Act Up and HIV/AIDS in the gay community, I highly recommend reading Gabby and Jamie’s fantastic review of “United in Anger“.

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Full-time writer, part-time lover, freelancing in fancy cheese and cider.

Kate has written 130 articles for us.



    but thank you for sharing this, femme tears aside. I think a lot of the younger queer community, myself included, forget the huge stigma of AIDS in the 80’s, and how the government refused to deal with AIDS fir the longest time. Of course, schools are too busy trying to assimilate us to bother to, you know, teach us.

  2. Also the quilt is coming to Akron! NOTHING EVER COMES TO AKRON!!!!
    except clevelanders and pollution.

  3. I was already crying big tears and then I come across one that reads:
    “To those who died alone”

  4. I remember seeing the quilt in High School and feeling like the world no longer revolved around me.

    I also told myself I would never have unprotected sex. Seeing something that large is important for teenagers. Makes HIV/AIDS less of a fairy tale.

  5. i haven’t seen my uncle’s in about 10 years, so it’ll be good to see it again. I miss him & his giant doctor who scarf so much. :'(

  6. I saw the quilt laid out on the National Mall when I went to the Millenium March in 2000. I don’t even think it was the whole thing, because by then it was too large. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

  7. I thought it would be the pictures and the messages that got to me.

    But it’s the names. Just dragging across the page, and the endless names. Some with pictures, some with just a name, something sacred and meaningful enough to stand alone. Down and down, over further to the right or left and still not hitting the edge of the quilt.

    I’m crying.

  8. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but I didn’t need to zoom in to burst into tears.
    I’ve only had two close encounters with AIDS, one of which was my first stepmother who died while I was still quite young, and my dad, who has been living with it for over twenty years now. He’s one of the really lucky ones, his virus was slow moving so he’s on good drugs now, instead of what they had to begin with… But the amount of pain this virus has caused in my little world, just from those two, is soul-destroying.

    I knew the numbers were big but I’ve never seen them in pictorial form. If this amount of pain and loss is felt from two, then the pain and loss for each of those must be… Well, it’s totally unfathomable.
    So that’s why I’m crying, because I never really realised how much the world hurt for it. I don’t think any amount of remembering can ever do it justice.

    Now I’m going to go curl up somewhere warm and cuddly my cats, and try to pretend that things are okay for a little while.

    • Yes it has been, but do you know how hard it is to find a panel without the all-important number? I spend a couple of heartwrenching hours searching for my uncle’s, which I did eventually find.

  9. Autostraddle posted this 3 days before I saw Elegies performed at my uni. Oh AS how do you know my life?

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