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Saturday 10 October 2009

AIDS Quilt website project takes shape

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News, HIV
By Daily News staff - 3rd September 2009

A cyber-home for New Zealand's AIDS Memorial Quilts is beginning to take shape following the donation of cash and a professional photographer's expertise.

Wellington-based photographer Gareth Watkins and his partner Roger Smith have just spent two days creating a photographic record of all 130 quilts and the images will be archived in an AIDS Memorial Quilt website. A $2,000 cash donation to the project by the Gay Auckland Business Association and "the input of a long time Quilt benefactor in Nelson" has enabled website design work to be started, according to Quilt Guardian Michael Bancroft.

Gareth Watkins & Roger Smith photograph quilt panels
The site, likely to go live early to mid-next year, will also include documents and other background material associated with the quilts, and it is hoped there may be a facility for people to make virtual quilts to remember loved ones. Over 700 New Zealanders, almost all of them gay men, have died since the HIV epidemic began in the early 1980s.

The making of quilts started as a way for grieving family and friends to come to terms with the frequently traumatic deaths of many gay men due to the HIV virus. Often the creation of a quilt panel brought together people from separate spheres of the dead man's life, in an era when friends, family and even a long-time partner had never met each other.

With the lowering death toll due to drug treatments Quilt making has dropped out of fashion. Those quilts already made have been collected and stored, with a small selection of panels exhibited on important community occasions. Some of the quilts are now twenty years old and alongside the website development the Quilt Project is searching out long-term curation and storage options for the delicate fabric panels, attempting to find a balance between meticulous preservation for the future and ongoing practical access. "Their age and present state  wear and tear after years of foldings and unfoldings and displays means it is imperative we act now," says Bancroft.

Further information, or donations, sponsorship and offers of assistance can be made through the Quilt Guardian, P.O. Box 6663 Wellesley St Auckland or phone 09 303 3124. Daily News staff - 3rd September 2009

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