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About the Virtual AIDS Quilt

In 2020, The National AIDS Memorial digitized all 48,000 panels of the Quilt. They worked together with NWA Equality and other Quilt partners in every State to create this exhibition, which includes digital images from thousands of hand-sewn Quilt panels, each visually telling the story of loved ones lost to AIDS. The links to the panels are below.

Northwest Arkansas Equality's AIDS Memorial Quilt selections include Arkansans and historical figures significant to the AIDS movement. If you know more information about these Arkansans or others not shown as part of this display, please let us know.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in November of 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. By 1985, over 1,000 San Franciscans has been lost to AIDS.

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 overwhelming response to the Quilt’s inaugural display led to a national tour in 1988. More than 9,000 volunteers across the country helped the seven-person traveling crew move and display the Quilt. Local panels were added in each city, tripling the Quilt’s size to more than 6,000 panels by the end of the tour. With the World Health Organization's help, Quilt organizers traveled to eight countries to mark the first World AIDS Day on December 1, 1988, with simultaneous displays broadcast from six continents.

In October 1989, the now 12,000-panel Quilt was again displayed on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.  HBO released their documentary film on the Quilt, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, which brought the Quilt’s message to millions of movie-goers. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary of 1989.

By 1992, the AIDS Memorial Quilt included panels from every state and 28 countries. In October 1992, the entire Quilt returned to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  In January 1993, the NAMES Project was invited to march in President Clinton’s inaugural parade where over 200 volunteers carried Quilt panels down Pennsylvania Avenue. The last display of the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt was in October of 1996 when the Quilt covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C., with an estimated 1.2 million people coming to viewing.  The Clintons and Gores attended the display, marking the first visit by a sitting United States president.

Today, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is an epic 54-ton tapestry that includes more than 48,000 panels dedicated to more than 100,000 individuals. The Quilt's tours have raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS research, and the Quilt is viewed through over 1,000 displays worldwide every year. It is the premiere symbol of the AIDS pandemic, a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS, and an important HIV prevention education tool. With hundreds of thousands of people contributing their talents to making the memorial panels, and tens of thousands of volunteers to help display it, the Quilt is considered the largest community arts project in history.

Event Contact:
Joseph M. Porter
President, Board of Directors
479-966-9014, Ext. 1
info@nwaequality.org