Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
It all began in 1987 in San Francisco in the midst of the AIDS crisis. The vision of the NAMES Project was to commemorate the lives of people who had died of AIDS. A collection of cloth panels, designed as memorials to specific individuals who had died of AIDS, were gathered in a permanent monument called The AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In 1989, portions of The AIDS Memorial Quilt went on tour through the United States and Canada. Several Canadian cities hosted displays, receiving hundreds of new Canadian panels. These panels remained in Canada to form the first sections of our own Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Canada is now one of more than 35 countries with an AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt
The Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt is made up of more than 600 three-foot by six-foot panels, each panel created in memory of someone who has died of AIDS-related causes. Eight panels are sewn together to form a single 12 foot square called a Section. More than 80 of these Sections form the Canadian Quilt. Each Section can be laid on the floor or hung for easy viewing. Quite poignantly, the size of the panels were meant to approximate the dimensions of a grave.
Although it’s difficult to believe today, in the beginning of the AIDS crisis many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals—due to both the social stigma of AIDS and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the remains of the deceased. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, the Memorial Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate the lives of their loved ones.
In 2013 the collection was brought under the care of the Canadian AIDS Society. This is quite a responsibility for us as the Quilt personifies the struggle of those who have died and reminds us of the daily struggle of the 75,000 Canadians who are living with HIV today.