The NAMES Project Foundation

Mission, Goals, Values and History

Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation, Inc. Is the international, non-governmental, 501(c)(3) organization that is the custodian of The AIDS Memorial Quilt and its associated document and media archive. As a 501(c)(3) organization and in accordance with our by-laws, The NAMES Project Foundation is governed by a duly elected Board of Directors.

The Mission of The NAMES Project Foundation:

To preserve, care for, and use the AIDS Memorial Quilt to foster healing, heighten awareness, and inspire action in the struggle against HIV and AIDS.


Through programs and activities of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, The NAMES Project Foundation endeavors to:
* Provide a creative means for remembrance and healing.
* Effectively illustrate the enormity of the AIDS epidemic.
* Increase the general public’s awareness of HIV and AIDS.
* Assist others with HIV infection-prevention education.
* Raise funds for community-based AIDS service organizations.


As custodians of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, we commit to:
* Value all lives equally
* Identify and share the lessons we learn
* Preserve a cultural record of life in the age of AIDS
* Embody responsible collaboration
* Set apart a sacred space where people heal, hope and remember.

History of The NAMES Project Foundation

2012 marks the 25th anniversary of The NAMES Project Foundation, the international caretaker of the epic AIDS Memorial Quilt. It was in 1987 that friends and family first gathered in a San Francisco storefront determined to find a way to remember and honor the lives of their friends, partners, loved one lost to HIV/AIDS. They were angry, scared, frustrated, heart-broken and determined to create a memorial that could not be dismissed or denied. Who knew that what began with a single stretch of fabric measuring 3 foot by 6 foot and one name – Marvin Feldman – would become the internationally celebrated, 54-ton AIDS Memorial Quilt.

What began in San Francisco continues here in Atlanta. The NAMES Project Foundation works with hundreds of partners across the country to orchestrate more than 1,000 displays every year in schools, universities, places of worship, corporations and community centers. On World AIDS Day, December 1st of each year,  more than 1/2 of The Quilt goes on display around the nation and more than a half a million people experienced the power of The Quilt first hand. From Shamrock Middle School in Atlanta to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, from Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. — The Quilt continues opening hearts and minds, transforming statistics into souls and making the realities of HIV/AIDS real and human.

Panel making remains a vital element of The NAMES Project as new panels arrive at our offices daily. Free panel making workshops unfold around the country and every Sunday afternoon at the national headquarters. In addition, The NAMES Project recently launched a new pilot, panel making workshop program in Atlanta titled “Call My Name” that invites African American woman, under the guidance of one of Atlanta’s leading textile artists, to gather to create of new Quilt panels for members of their community lost to HIV/AIDS.

A historic moment came for The NAMES Project in 2005 when The Quilt was deemed an official American treasure with the awarding of the prestigious “Save America’s Treasures” Federal Grant. With this award, The Quilt is now recognized as part of America’s priceless historic legacy, an enduring symbol that defines us as a nation and is an important component of our culture and heritage that helps to explain America’s past to future generations. The “Save America’s Treasures” designation came with a $100,000 matching grant that has been used to help establish a conservation program to ensure The Quilt’s survival for years to come.

The initial idea for The AIDS Memorial Quilt came to our founder Cleve Jones at a 1985 candlelight march to honor the memory of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, both assassinated in 1978. While planning the march, Jones learned that more than 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. In their honor, he asked his fellow marchers to write the names of those friends and loved ones on placards and carry them in the march. For the first time, numbers became NAMES.

At the end of the march, Jones and other participants taped the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. It was this action, the creation of a wall of names with its resemblance to a patchwork quilt, which gave birth to the idea for The AIDS Memorial Quilt and eventually, The NAMES Project Foundation.

In June of 1987, Jones, Mike Smith and a small group of friends and strangers alike, gathered in a San Francisco storefront on Market Street to formally organize The NAMES Project Foundation. From the start, the public response to the Quilt was immediate. People in each of the U.S. cities most affected by AIDS – Atlanta, New York, L.A., and San Francisco — sent panels to the San Francisco workshop in memory of their friends and loved ones. Generous donors rapidly filled “wish lists” for sewing machines, office supplies and volunteers.

On June 27, 1987, the fledgling NAMES Project displayed the first 40 panels of The Quilt from the Mayor’s balcony at San Francisco City Hall. Each panel measured 3’x6′, the size of a human grave, and bore the name of an individual lost to AIDS. Four months later, October 1987, the first 1,920 panels were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Half a million people visited The Quilt that weekend.

The overwhelming response to The Quilt’s inaugural national display led to a four-month, 20-city, national tour for The Quilt in Spring 1988. The tour raised nearly $500,000 for hundreds of AIDS service organizations. More than 9,000 volunteers across the US helped the travelling crew display The Quilt. Local panels were added in each city, tripling The Quilt’s size to more than 6,000 panels by the end of the tour.

The Quilt returned to Washington, D.C. in October 1988, when 8,288 panels were displayed on the Ellipse in front of the White House. Celebrities, politicians, families, lovers and friends read aloud the names of the people represented by The Quilt panels. The reading of names is now a tradition followed at nearly every Quilt display.

As The Quilt grew, so did its mission. The Quilt quickly became a vehicle to visually illustrate the numbers lost to the AIDS epidemic as well as a tool to bring names to statistics, to humanize the devastation and threat of AIDS. As it brought public attention to the epidemic, The Quilt began to sway government policy and funding decisions, and became a means to unify a generation in the struggle against AIDS.

Through its evolution, The Quilt evolved as a powerful tool for social change. In 1987 when the first panel of The Quilt was constructed, public officials were debating mandatory testing and mandatory quarantines of infected citizens. Homophobic reaction to HIV/AIDS was rampant. First dubbed the “Gay Plague” and the disease of drug addicts, HIV/AIDS was a companion to prejudice and ignorance. The Quilt became a unifying force both for the gay community and for society. Quilt tours became a venue for peaceful demonstration; an opportunity for all people to stand together and honor those lost to AIDS and a means to support the gay community.

In 1989, a second NAMES Project tour of North America brought The Quilt to 19 additional cities in the U.S. and Canada. That tour and other 1989 displays raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for AIDS service organizations. In October of that year, The Quilt was again displayed on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. That same year, The Quilt was honored with a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

As of 1992, The AIDS Memorial Quilt included panels from every U.S. state and 28 countries. In October 1992, the entire Quilt returned to Washington, D.C., this time in the shadow of the Washington Monument. To reflect the global nature of the AIDS pandemic, this display was titled the “International Display.”

In January 1993, The NAMES Project was invited to march in President Clinton’s inaugural parade. Over 200 volunteers, including representatives of national AIDS organizations and Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993, carried Quilt panels down Pennsylvania Avenue in the parade.

An estimated 1.2 million people visited The Quilt when it was shown in its entirety in Washington, D.C. in October 1996. Covering the National Mall from the Washington Monument to the grounds of the U.S. Capital Building, The Quilt occupied an area equal to 24 football fields. Some 2,500 new panels were added to The Quilt over the three-day display, putting the total number of panels displayed at more than 40,000. For the first time, a U.S. President and Vice President visited a display of the entire Quilt.

In 2000, the Board of Directors of The NAMES Project elected to move the Foundation’s national headquarters from San Francisco to Atlanta and on December 1, 2002, the new site was dedicated at 101 Krog Street. The cross-country move was made to shore up the Foundation’s finances and to be in a better position to address the changing face of HIV/AIDS.

From our offices in Atlanta, The NAMES Project orchestrated another national Quilt display in Washington, D.C. in June 2004. The display was presented on the Ellipse, featured 8,000 of our newest panels, sewn into 1,000 Quilt blocks.

Thanks to the largest donation in the Foundation’s history, The NAMES Project moved the national headquarters to 204 14th St and finally to our current home at 117 Luckie St, all in Atlanta.  Today, The AIDS Memorial Quilt is an epic, 54-ton tapestry that includes more than 49,000 panels dedicated to more than 96,000 individuals. It is the premiere symbol of the AIDS pandemic and the largest piece of community art in the world – a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS and our most potent HIV prevention education tool.

Currently, there are 10 NAMES Project chapters in the US and more than 11 international affiliates around the world. From San Francisco’s Castro Street to Vatican City, from Taipei to Uganda, from inner-city schools to the United Nations Headquarters, The Quilt has called on the world to respond to AIDS with compassion and resolve.

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Click here for more information on The Last One, a feature-length documentary tracing the history of The AIDS Memorial Quilt.​


The NAMES Project stages Quilt displays each year in a variety of venues in hopes of making HIV/AIDS real and immediate.


Hosting a display is easy, affordable and important. Join the effort to educate and inspire by hosting a display of The AIDS Memorial Quilt in your community.


You don't have to be an artist or sewing expert to create a moving personal tribute remembering a life lost to AIDS. Find support and step by step instructions here.