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National AIDS Memorial to Launch 50-State AIDS Memorial Quilt Virtual Exhibition

Thursday October 15, 2020

The AIDS quilt in front of the Washington Monument.
The AIDS quilt in front of the Washington Monument.  (Source:National Institutes of Health)

The National AIDS Memorial has announced a virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (the Quilt) that will feature more than 10,000 Quilt panels representing all 50 state and U.S. territories. The memorial is inviting interested panel makers, individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations to be part of this historic effort to use the power of the Quilt to help a nation heal and remember during these difficult times.

Each year on World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Memorial Quilt team works with hundreds of partners to arrange more than 1,000 in-person Quilt displays across the country at universities, places of worship, museums, businesses and community centers to honor and remember loved ones lost to AIDS. This year, for health and safety reasons, that isn't possible due to COVID-19.

"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 John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial. "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."

The virtual exhibition provides a unique way for individuals and organizations to host a display of the Quilt and be a part of this first-ever 50-state exhibition. Each display host will be able to feature a selection of beautiful Quilt blocks of their choice and curate a personalized display narrative that will accompany each display.

The exhibition will be free to the public, launching on November 16, 2020, in advance of World AIDS Day at www.aidsmemorial.org/virtual2020. Displays will be categorized by state under the individual or organization host name and presented virtually as the first-ever 50-state exhibition of the Quilt. The exhibition will run through March 31, 2021.

The fee to participate as a virtual display host is $500.00. Applications to participate must be received by November 1, 2020, to be part of the current exhibition. Proceeds from the exhibition will be used to ensure the continued care and conservation of more than 48,000 individual panels of this national treasure. Each year, in-person Quilt displays account for more than half of the Quilt's annual operating budget. Additional support for the Quilt and its programs is funded through support from Gilead Sciences, Vivent Health, and other partners.

"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," said Gert McMullan, a co-founder of the Quilt and Quilt Conservator at the National AIDS Memorial.


2020 marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States, a pandemic that has led to nearly 700,000 lives lost, and still no cure four decades later. As our nation struggles through the Covid-19 pandemic, the horrific loss of life has surpassed 200,000 in a matter of months.

On World AIDS Day on December 1, the National AIDS Memorial will bring together powerful voices from both pandemics for an important conversation about health justice, social activism, remembrance, hope and resilience. "World AIDS Day 2020, A National Conversation" will spotlight the interconnectedness of both pandemics —the lives lost, the survivors, the activism, the heroes.

Through a distinguished list of guest speakers, panelists, video storytelling, and musical tributes, the National AIDS Memorial will share important insights and help answer the questions about how a nation responds, how it heals, and what lessons must be learned to prepare for the future. More details about the National AIDS Memorial World AIDS Day program will be announced in the coming weeks.

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