Threads of Remembrance : Quilt Displays

The first display of the full Quilt was on October 11, 1987, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. At the time, the Quilt consisted of 1,920 panels and covered a space larger than a football field. With the overwhelming response to this display, the Quilt toured to 20 cities across the country, in 1988, to educate the population about HIV/AIDS and to raise funds for service organizations. During this four-month tour, over 6,000 panels were added to the Quilt.

The Quilt has only been displayed in its entirety on five separate occasions, each time taking up more space at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Quilt, currently the largest community art project in the world, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and in 2005 the Quilt received the “Save America’s Treasures” Federal Grant, officially marking it as an invaluable artifact that helps to tell the American story.

Postcard, entire AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed on National Mall, October 1992
Postcard, entire AIDS Memorial Quilt displayed on National Mall, October 1992
Clipping featuring images from AIDS Memorial Quilt display
AIDS Memorial Quilt button for Inaugural Parade, 1993
NAMESletter, Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter 1993

Dallas was the seventh stop on the 1988 tour of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and the display of nearly 200 blocks was held at the Centennial Building at Fair Park. In planning this display, the NAMES Project Foundation reached out to the Dallas Gay Alliance, which created a volunteer group to handle arrangements for the official display, as well as arrange additional smaller displays throughout the city. In addition to wanting to view the Quilt, the people of Dallas also wanted to memorialize their loved ones by adding their names to the Quilt. The Dallas Sewing Center was opened to address this desire. Caven Enterprises donated a storefront on Cedar Springs, which housed the donated sewing machines and materials that people could utilize to create panels. 

Two men in front of "The NAMES Project National Tour 88" panel
1988 Tour volunteers linking hands around folded Quilt block
"Remembrance: Love Comes to Dallas" clipping
AIDS Update, Vol. 3, No. 5, May 1988

In October of 1988, the Quilt returned to Washington, D.C., from its national tour. 8,288 panels were displayed on the Ellipse in front of the White House. At this display, loved ones, celebrities, and politicians read aloud the names of those represented on the Quilt, and this ceremony has been a tradition at Quilt displays ever since.

Members of the Dallas LGBT community, including John Thomas, attended this display, and represented the city in the candlelight vigil.

Duane Puryear attended this display, and can be seen holding the panel he created for himself. He contracted HIV at the age of 16 and was diagnosed at 22, at which point he moved back Dallas to be with his family. During this time, he worked with the AIDS Resource Center Hotline, which led to him taking on a public speaking role to help educate about HIV/AIDS. Puryear died in 1991, at the age of 26. 

AIDS Memorial Quilt display on Ellipse, 1989
Duane Puryear wearing "Student With AIDS" sweatshirt and holding quilt panel at Ellipse display in Washington, D.C., 1989
Duane Puryear holding own panel at Display on Ellipse in Washington, D.C., 1989
People viewing AIDS Memorial Quilt at the display on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., 1989
Dallasites participating in candlelight vigil at display on Ellipse in Washington, D.C., 1989
Dallasites participating in candlelight vigil at display on Ellipse in Washington, D.C., 1989
"Huge quilt gives human dimension to AIDS epidemic" clipping

Dallas Shares the Memories-The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt Display, held in 1994, was the largest Quilt display outside of Washington, D.C. at the time, including around 3,000 panels.

Crowd at Dallas Market Hall display, 1994
Bill Nelson panel hanging at Dallas Market Hall display, 1994
Jean Nelson below Bill Nelson's quilt panel, 1994
Detail of panel for Gary Lamoureux at Dallas Market Hall display, 1994
Detail of panel for Ryan White featuring a Jim Borgman cartoon at Dallas Market Hall display, 1994