UW News

October 11, 2012

Documents that Changed the World: The AIDS Memorial Quilt

UW News

AIDS Memorial Quilt Washington CD 2007

The AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington, D.C., 2007.Wikimedia Commons

Can a quilt be a document? Certainly, says Joe Janes in his podcast about the AIDS Memorial Quilt — the latest in his series called Documents that Changed the World.

“(It’s) something of a surprising or unexpected choice, since the normal association of a ‘document’ is printed, paper, words, so the form of this makes it unusual,” said Janes, a professor in the UW Information School.

“There’s a personal aspect to the topic choice as well, Janes said. “I lost a couple of good friends in the ’80s before we really knew what AIDS and HIV was, and before there were good ways of living with it, and the fear and suspicion and ignorance around it still live with many people who went through those days.”

Janes added, “Coming out is a very different proposition now than it was then, which is a symbol of our progress in an important way.” He thought it appropriate that the podcast about the quilt be published on Oct. 11, which is recognized internationally as Coming Out Day.

Documents that Changed the World

A podcast series by Joe Janes
UW Information School

These podcasts are also available on iTunes.

Transcripts and podcasts also available at the Information School website.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt, Janes reminds listeners, came into being in 1986 and has grown annually since, with each panel 3 by 6 feet, or “roughly the size of a grave,” he said. The quilt now comprises more than 48,000 panels representing more than 94,000 names.

“It may never be finished, and if it was, how and when would we know?” Janes said, noting that the quilt “almost certainly will never be assembled again.”

Janes added, “I also think it’s a beautiful story, that something so ugly can produce such beauty; it speaks to the higher things we can achieve, and that’s never a bad thing to reflect on.”

This is the sixth installment of the Documents that Changed the World. Janes continues to research and record new installments, and the series has passed its 12,500th iTunes download.