OMSI showcases sections of the ‘National AIDS Memorial Quilt’

INCLUDES VIDEO EXHIBIT TOUR | Here’s why you should plan to see the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt’, while it’s on display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry through February 19 …

In the lobby outside the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, guests attend a reception for the opening of a special exhibit – the “Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), partnering with the National AIDS Memorial, began showcasing a dozen blocks of the huge AIDS Memorial Quilt – with a special connection to the Pacific Northwest – in their Auditorium on Friday, January 5.

Locally, the six-week exhibition was done in conjunction with the Cascade AIDS Project  (CAP).

Encouraging outer East Portlanders to come see the exhibition is CAP Aging Well Program Manager Jim Clay.

At the opening night, Cascade Aids Project Aging Well Program Manager Jim Clay told East Portland News that his organization was founded in 1983 and incorporated in 1985, making it the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education, and advocacy in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“And, our ‘Aging Well’ program supports well-being of older adults living with, or who are affected by, HIV,” explained Clay. “This exhibition is of interest to people associated with the Cascade Aids Project; but especially to older adults.

The atmosphere is contemplative and respectful, as guests examine the Quilt panels.

“As we walk through this exhibit, we see Quilt panels with names of people that we knew, and loved, and lost, some 30 years ago,” Clay said, with emotion in his voice. “This memorial is very, very personal to us.”

Typically, Clay pointed out, people call it the “AIDS Memorial Quilt”. “But, it’s important to us that it’s known by its official full name – the ‘Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt – because the object of this project is to remember the names, the individuals, lost to AIDS.”

Take our brief video tour of this moving exhibition:

Clay said that, in 1985, human rights activist Cleve Jones conceived the idea of making panels of a quilt to memorialize those who had died of AIDS, in hopes of helping others to understand the devastating impact of the disease – all while documenting the many lives which he feared history would forget.

These are only some of the names of people remembered through the AIDS Memorial Quilt, on display at OMSI, through mid February.

“Those in our Aging Well program are in their 50s, 60s – and are some as old as their 80s,” Clay remarked. “This exhibition is a way for them to be in contact with younger generations, who may believe that HIV has always been something easily managed by taking a pill every day. We want younger people, who weren’t alive [in the 1980s], to learn about the horrific and brutal mass death we saw in the 1980s – and we hope they’ll choose to get involved.”

He said that such knowledge is important because, today, HIV is again on the rise, particularly among young people, and in communities of color. Quilt displays are used to raise more awareness about the story of AIDS, and the prevention steps, the treatments, and resources available.

Individually, or in groups, visitors pay their respects to those lost to AIDS at this uniquely moving exhibition now at OMSI.

“One thing we did learn over the decades is that banding together as a community, and supporting each other, really does make things work,” Clay said. “Having community to be staying connected is really a wonderful thing.”

The AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit is free and open to the public, in OMSI’s auditorium – from now through February 19, during regular museum hours. For more information, see the museum’s exhibit-specific webpage: CLICK HERE.

And, for more information about the Cascade Aids Project, visit their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2024 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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