After 25 years, AIDS Memorial Quilt returns to National Mall

The AIDS Memorial Quilt returned to the National Mall twenty-five years after its original appearance. Its display at the Mall and various locations around the District coincided with the International AIDS Conference at the Washington Convention Center.

When the Quilt project originated in the ’80s, it brought an enormous amount of attention to an under-researched and stigmatized disease.

Each of the 8,000 panels of the quilt on display for the festival memorializes a man or woman who died battling HIV/AIDS.

When the quilt was here 16 years ago, the entire thing stretched across the Mall. At 1.3 million square feet, organizers say today’s quilt is too large to be displayed in full.

The NAMES Project Foundation, curator of the quilt, publicly unveiled a special panel for the first time.

In 1988, a lone panel was delivered quietly to the NAMES Project in Atlanta. Unlike any other panel among the tens of thousands of panels made at that time, this special panel arrived simply with a handwritten note that read: “I hope this quilt will find a permanent place and help mark the end of this devastating disease.” The panel itself was stark in design, white letters on a black background, simply saying “The Last One.”

The Foundation says it won’t stitch the “The Last One” into the quilt until AIDS is eradicated.

The quilt may be now be too large for display in any one place, but you can see the entire thing virtually here, and zoom in on individual panels.