The Public Interactives Research Team (PIRT) from The New School will present the AIDS Quilt Touch Project at SIGGRAPH 2015 whose graphic theme is the interplay between two ideas: Quilts and Xroads of Discovery. PIRT will showcase a suite of technologies designed to enhance and expand viewers’ experiences of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in an installation which includes 6 of the 5914 12’ by 12’ sections of the Quilt. As the largest living memorial of its kind in the world, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is composed of 48,000 individual panels made by more than 33,000 people that commemorate more than 93,000 names. If laid out in its entirety, the physical Quilt would cover 1.2 million square feet.  Our research team has created the first virtual Quilt that is composed of more than 5900 individual digital images of Quilt blocks that include nearly 48,000 Quilt panels. We have created several applications that enable members of the public to interact with this digital representation of an important work of cultural heritage.


The AIDS Quilt Touch project serves the following objectives:

  • to enable members of the public to experience the scale, history, and importance of the Quilt;
  • to enable viewers to explore the stories embedded within the Quilt as told by families, communities, and activists;
  • to clarify and augment information describing those honored on the Quilt, the makers of the Quilt, and the history of the Quilt over the past 30 years;
  • to elicit new stories of the Quilt and those honored in it;
  • to create a research platform for scholars of the Quilt who are interested in investigating the histories of the development of the AIDS pandemic and of AIDS activism, as well of the histories of folk art, textile art, activist art, and quilt crafts.


The suite of technologies we will present include the following:

  • The Interactive Tangible Browser for the AIDS Memorial Quilt utilizes an 55” multitouch table which enables viewers to search for a name on a Quilt panel, browse the virtual Quilt, and zoom among different viewing distances: from a bird’s eye view to a view of an individual Quilt panel.
  • The Timeline for the History of AIDS and the AIDS Memorial Quilt utilizes a Microsoft PPI 55” touchscreen that displays an interactive timeline recounting key episodes in the 30-year history of the AIDS pandemic and the 25-year history of the creation of the Quilt.
  • The AIDS Quilt Touch Mobile Web App enables a web-user to search for a name on the Quilt, view Quilt Blocks, comment on a specific panel or on the Quilt itself. Visit:


This project has been supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Microsoft Research, and a consortium of University research partners.  Beta versions of this digital project was initially presented during the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. Even in beta form, the digital applications generated positive press coverage from TechCrunch and other technology media outlets;  it was featured on the top page of the Bing site, and widely promoted by Microsoft Research including through a personal tweet from Bill Gates.  The digital applications have been updated for SIGGRAPH 2015 with hardware and software enhancements.