As technology advances, the ways in which people interact with The AIDS Memorial Quilt also change. Online applications and touch screen electronics give individuals around the world the opportunity to explore the entire Quilt without having to wait for or travel to a display. Online visitors will soon be able to add their own stories about specific panels to this public archive.
A virtual tour of the panels, though, cannot compare with the experience of seeing The Quilt firsthand. The process of making a commemorative panel can be therapeutic, and continued access to that panel is part of the lifelong therapy process. The NAMES Project Foundation provides this access by allowing organizations throughout the world to host Quilt displays in their communities, where people will often request to see the panels they made. As well, panel makers and others frequently visit the Atlanta headquarters in order to view sections of The Quilt. The NAMES Project Foundation recognizes that it is entrusted with The Quilt— letting it be a living memorial that travels the world interacting with and teaching the public.
As a part of this living memorial, The NAMES Project Foundation records oral histories from people affected by AIDS. Like any community’s self-expression, each story in a Quilt panel or an oral history recording comes from a unique point of view and differs from the next; but they all speak to a shared experience of the effect of HIV/AIDS.
“My brother Don Provost died of AIDS at age 29 on June 25th, 1987. The panel I made for him consists of fireworks in beads, sequins, and glitter on black velvet. It took a really long time to make the panel (I don’t recommend using velvet!). Don loved fireworks and died close to the 4th of July with a closet full of them. When I think of where his spirit lives, it is in the sky, in the form of fireworks.”
“No. I don’t want to be buried. I want my family just to tell stories about me with some of my friends and eat ice cream. Rocky Road. In my memory. And play ‘I Heard it through the Grapevine’ and read Owen Meany.”