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Researchers Digitize Aids Quilt to Make It a Research Tool

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AIDS Quilt Memorial on the National Mall

The USC team will apply for a grant to expand the AIDS Quilt database to make it a more powerful research tool searchable by additional parameters.


The AIDS Quilt and a tabletop browser were on display at the recent Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. In 2010 the University of Southern California's Anne Balsamo launched an effort to digitize the quilt in an attempt to make the memorial more accessible via photos. The quilt consists of 48,000 panels sewn into blocks of eight panels each, and a digital version enables people to easily find blocks and zoom in and out of different areas of a project that covers more than 1.3 million square feet.

Users can currently search only by name, but a grant from the U.S. National Endowment of the Humanities could enable the NAMES Project Foundation to expand the digital database of the quilt to make it searchable by parameters such as city, birth, and death dates. Crowdsourcing could be used to make the database searchable by individual panel instead of block, relying on volunteers to identity features such as materials, images, and dates to make it a comprehensive research tool.

"We are stewards of culture, and we want this to push not only the humanities and digital humanities, but computer scientists, hard sciences, to create this collaborative project," Balsamo says.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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