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Creating worldwide access
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This year marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a work of art that reflects the worldwide scope and personal impact of the AIDS pandemic.
As part of the commemoration, the University of Iowa Digital Studio for the Public Humanities (DSPH) is working to make the quilt more available and accessible to people around the world.
The textile quilt is composed of 48,000 individual panels that commemorate more than 91,000 names. The size of the physical quilt measures more than 1.3 million square feet and covers more than 29 acres of land. It would take a visitor more than 33 days to view every panel—spending only one minute at each panel. It is the largest living memorial of its kind in the world.
In June, the quilt will be featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., and in July it will be displayed on the National Mall—the first time the quilt will be laid out in its entirety since 1996.
It will take five days—July 21-25—to display all 48,000 panels. The events are part of the Quilt 2012 program sponsored by the NAMES Project Foundation, the nonprofit organization that maintains and displays the quilt.
DSPH is working with the NAMES Project Foundation and Professor Anne Balsamo and researcher Dale MacDonald at the University of Southern California Annenberg Innovation Lab to create a mobile web application called AIDS Quilt Touch that will allow visitors to Washington, D.C., to locate a specific panel when it is laid out on the National Mall. The app will also allow people to leave remembrances and contribute comments to a digital guest book.
After the Quilt 2012 events, the app will continue to serve as a portal that enables people to browse the entire collection of quilt panels, read the stories of the quilt, trace the travels of any single panel, and participate in crowdsourcing information about individual panels.
“We know that not everyone who has an interest in the AIDS Memorial Quilt can make the trip to Washington, D.C., this summer. Moreover, the entire quilt has grown so large that all the panels cannot be viewed in one session,” says Jon Winet, DSPH director and associate professor of intermedia in the School of Art and Art History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “The aim is not to replace or interfere with the experience of viewing the textile quilt, but to augment that experience and to extend the opportunity to view the quilt to people all over the world through online access.”
The team plans to complete the app by June 27 in time for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, but is seeking support through a Kickstarter campaign initiated by Balsamo to raise $30,000 by June 9. The funds will allow the team to complete the app as well as develop, print, and disseminate user instructions for the several hundred thousand visitors who are expected to view the quilt this summer. Information about the Kickstarter campaign is available at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1769813233/aids-memorial-quilt-mobile-web-app-0.
The URL for the app once launched will be www.aidsquilttouch.org.
“DSPH is honored to be working with the NAMES Foundation and the USC Innovation Lab on this project. Quilt 2012 is an exemplary public project that honors history on personal and societal levels,” Winet says.
The UI team working on the app includes Winet; Mark NeuCollins, lead researcher; Nikki Dudley, assistant researcher; Kelli Thompson, graduate research assistant and student in the School of Library and Information Sciences in the Graduate College; Kayla Haar, Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates/DSPH Designer in Residence and student in the School of Art & Art History; and Lauren Haldeman, Writing University editor.
DSPH, launched in August 2011, is a campuswide initiative that encourages and supports public digital humanities research, scholarship, and learning by faculty, staff, graduate, and undergraduate students, including those involved in “Public Humanities in a Digital World,” one of the interdisciplinary faculty clusters established by the UI Cluster Hire Initiative.