MATRIX received its initial NEH grant for the Quilt Index project in 1999. a collaboration between the Michigan State University Museum, MATRIX, and the Quilt Alliance. In 2014, MATRIX has been working towards an NEH grant to fund an addition to the Quilt Index, “AIDS Quilt Touch: A Distributed Digital Archive Platform for Digital Storytelling, Citizen Archiving, and Preservation of Cultural Heritage”.
Project PIs Marsha Macdowell, Dean Rehberger, and Clare Luz are working to add the AIDS Memorial Quilt into the Quilt Index, which they hope will help explore the importance of storytelling to health, among other things. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created in 1987 by gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who made the first panel of the massive quilt to honor the death of his friend, Marvin Feldman. Soon, he invited others to join him and create panels for the quilt as a way to honor their loved ones who had died of AIDS. Jones eventually decided to display the first 1,920 panels in Washington D.C. at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987 to show how massive the AIDS epidemic actually was. The current quilt weighs in at about 54 tons and consists of over 48,000 panels. The quilt is maintained by the NAMES Project Foundation.
By adding the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the Quilt Index, the Index will be able to help preserve an important cultural heritage in American and Gay and Lesbian Rights history, allowing anyone to view this magnificent piece of community folk art.