Beloit Public Library (BPL) and the National AIDS Memorial (NAM) are partnering together to bring six sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Beloit as part of World AIDS Day observances.
The display will take place from November 30-December 7 and is part of World AIDS Day observances, as well as a commemoration of the more than 700,000 American lives lost to AIDS since the first cases were reported in the United States 40 years ago this year. World AIDS Day is December 1. The display can be viewed in BPL’s Riverside Room during regular library hours.
BPL is one of 42 locations across the country to host sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and one of only two public libraries to do so. Other host cities include Spokane, Washington; San Francisco, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; West Hollywood, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio; Arlington, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Boston, Massachusetts; and Nyack, New York.
“We are honored to work together with the National AIDS Memorial to bring these six quilt panels to Beloit on this momentous anniversary and share its stories of hope, healing and remembrance,” said Jeni Schomber, head of library services at BPL.
This year marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were first reported in the United States. During that four-decade span, more than 700,000 lives have been lost in this country to HIV/AIDS, with still no cure. Today, HIV is on the rise, particularly among young people, communities of color and in southern states. Quilt displays are used to raise greater awareness about the story of AIDS, and prevention, treatments, and resources available within the community.
The City of Beloit will present a proclamation at its regular November 15 City Council meeting to acknowledge the display and other events taking place at the library for this occasion. Along with the display and presentation, BPL will host and a Covid-19 vaccine clinic on December 6 and a blood drive on December 7.
BPL worked together with the National AIDS Memorial to curate the selection of the quilt for display, which features panels with connections to Wisconsin and made to honor and remember the names of friends and loved ones lost to AIDS.
One panel includes a tribute to Beloit College alum Michael Riesenberg who died as a result of the disease in 1993. His classmate, the award-winning author Ann Bausum, will present a special program at 6 p.m. on December 1 (World AIDS Day) with the display as the backdrop.
Titled Pandemics: The Fight Against AIDS in America at 6 p.m., Bausum will discuss our country’s response to the AIDS crisis on the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases in the United States. In what turned out to be an era of denial, fear, and unimaginable loss, countless brave activists confronted this devastating syndrome and now, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is no longer considered a death sentence. Bausum will tell the story of how that came to be and also draw comparisons between AIDS and COVID-19.
Timeline of Events
November 15 – Proclamation read at Beloit City Council Meeting at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Forum, 100 State Street, Beloit
November 29-December 7 – National AIDS Quilt on display along with 40 Years/40 Stories in BPL’s Riverside Room
December 1 – Ann Bausum presents Pandemics: The Fight Against AIDS in America at 6 p.m. in BPL’s Riverside Room
December 6 – COVID Vaccination Clinic from 12:30-4:30 p.m. in BPL’s Community Room
December 7 – Red Cross Blood Drive from 1-6 p.m. in BPL’s Community Room
About the AIDS Memorial Quilt
The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created nearly 35 years ago during the darkest days of the AIDS pandemic by gay rights activist Cleve Jones. While planning a march in 1985, he was devastated by the thousands of lives that had been lost to AIDS and asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died. Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt, and inspired by this sight, Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial.
In 1987, a group of strangers began gathering in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and later that year, nearly 2,000 of its panels were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Today, the quilt has grown to more than 50,000 panels, with more than 110,000 names stitched within its fabric. It weighs 54 tons, stretches more than 50 miles in length, and is the largest community-arts project in the world. The quilt is now part of the National AIDS Memorial, which oversees its preservation, care, storytelling programs, and community displays. It can be viewed in its entirety and people can search for names at www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt.
About Ann Bausum
Author Ann Bausum writes about history for readers of all ages from her home in southern Wisconsin. She works to make history feel alive and irresistible even for reluctant readers. Her books frequently explore issues of social justice, including women’s voting rights, the civil rights movement of the American South, free speech, immigration, and queer history. She has also documented the influence of propaganda during multiple periods of history, both in the U.S. and beyond.
Bausum’s 16 books have debuted to consistent acclaim and earned two dozen starred reviews in the last 20 years. Her titles appear frequently on lists of recommended and notable books and have received numerous awards. The body of her work has been recognized in her adopted home state and nationally by the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C.