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Big Quilt, Big Data: The AIDS Quilt Touch Project

"Epidemics, like wars, mark a generation for life."

The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created 25 years ago as a work of community activism to protest the appalling lack of attention by the US health agencies to what was then, in 1987, an increase in improbable fatalities among previously healthy gay men in the United States.  Its first inception unfolded in October 1987 on the National Mall in Washington DC as part of the March for Gay Rights; it included 1,920 Quilt panels.  Now 25 years later, the Quilt encompasses more than 48,000 panels, representing 60 countries and commemorating more than 93,000 names.   It is the largest living memorial of its kind in the world.

This presentation discusses the creation of an interactive memorial that was designed to augment viewing of the textile Quilt. Balsamo will demonstrate three interactive experiences that are part of the AIDS Quilt Touch project.  This talk is framed by a discussion of the role of the digital humanities in the creation of technological innovation.