Design a Living Memorial

  • PARTNER: The NAMES Project Foundation

    GOAL: Transform the future of memorials into groundbreaking digital public archives

    APPROACH: The AIDS Memorial Quilt, a breathtaking 1.3 million-square-foot quilt made by the families and friends of people who have died of AIDS, is one of the world's largest ongoing pieces of community folk art projects. Constantly traveling around the globe in segments for exhibitions, the AIDS Memorial Quilt has never been seen in its entirety and is in need of preservation, given the constant physical contact it has endured since 1987.

    The NAMES Project Foundation tapped the creative minds in the School of Media Studies to revolutionize the quilt and public interactivity by developing “AIDS Quilt Touch,” a comprehensive digital experience.

    OUTCOME: How can a digital experience provide physicality to ephemeral memories? A team of faculty and students from The New School’s Public Interactives Research Team (PIRT) tackled this question by merging design technology, cultural theory, media studies, and interface design to bring to life the AIDS Memorial Quilt for the digital era.

    Made with the latest touch technology, AIDS Quilt Touch is a digital memorial that helps preserve historic memories about AIDS, art, and activism. For the first time, viewers can see the quilt in its entirety, with the ability to view panel-by-panel details. The comprehensive digital experience also acts as a stimulus to thoughtful discourse, with its interactive timeline recounting the 30-year history of the AIDS pandemic and 25-year history of the quilt’s creation. Individuals can search the quilt for their loved ones by name, add comments to their panels, and generate new narratives with the community by submitting stories of their own.

    The product of deep exploration and creative discovery, AIDS Quilt Touch transforms the memorial experience and the future of storytelling and cultural preservation.

    AIDS Quilt Touch won a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and entry into SIGGRAPH 2015, a national convention for cutting-edge computer graphics and interactive techniques.

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