Researchers Digitize AIDS Quilt to Make It a Research Tool


Source: The Chronicle


1987, the aids quilt was first displayed on the mall in Washington DC. Footage of the quilt shows its mass scale, the size of a football field, but also loved ones paying their respects to individual panels. It is key to understand the quilt and it’s effects through the perception the its scale. In the small scale, one panel, the effect is personal. It describes the journey of one and has a special significance to the viewer, whether them a friend, acquaintance or admirer. Yet if all the panels are viewed in the large scale, the message changes to that of mass loss, shared mourning, and the need for change. This project of connecting the personal and the individual to a collective issue was extremely successful in raising support and awareness for the aids epidemic.
Although awareness was raised Aids continues to take the lives, with it the aids quilt has grown with now 48,000 panels covering 1.3 million square feet. Here we come into another problem with scale, how can we continue to honor those who have passed and display a collective community project of that mass scale. At the university of southern California researches have been working on digitizing the quilt so it can once again be fully displayed. Not only this but now individuals can search, toggle through, and add information to the panels over this digital interface.
While the internet solves many of the problems with scale in this project, it also creates some. The internet defies the normal bounds of scale, therefore we understand scaling through interfaces in a completely different way . So while the project is very admirable and successful, will our own disillusionment with scale hinder our understanding of the magnitude of the problem? Physical space is more tangible and appears more precious. A football field of memorials shocks and overwhelms, yet the scaled down panels on the screen do not have the same effect. Although scale will always be a main factor and issue in the quilt, more importantly the information from these objects is being documented to insure their memory will not be lost.


Global Issue: AIDS

Primary Design Lens: Community Design

Secondary Design Lens: Design for Awareness


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One Response to Researchers Digitize AIDS Quilt to Make It a Research Tool

  1. Barbara says:

    Moira, you nicely connect the project Anne Balsamo presented with the questions of scale presented by Jamer this week. Let’s discuss this in relation to the posts from Celina, Valentina, and Christine. (And, please post on time!)

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