Displaying The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt

For photos of earlier displays etc., see:

  • The first Unfolding of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt
  • School displays in the North Island and the South Island
  • Public Displays in the North Island and the South Island
  • International Displays which include the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt
  • The 1992 tour of Northland of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt

Now that The Quilt is housed at Te Papa in Wellington, most of the following is for historical information only.

The Quilt is normally displayed by request and is usually a Public Display or a school visit, although other more specialised visits can be arranged. When displayed, it is normally accompanied by a representative of The Quilt or Burnett Foundation Aotearoa who is familiar with The Quilt.

This page tells you most of the information you need to be able to host a display of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, from the planning stage through to the steps of an unfolding ceremony (and other ceremonies), along with other protocols related to The Quilt.

By clicking on the Public Displays or School Displays link on the left, you will see photos of various displays of The Quilt around New Zealand.

Planning to host a display?

Our goal is to make all Quilt visits as successful as possible. We are here to help. We would encourage a visit put on by people of all backgrounds and ages who are willing to join together to increase HIV awareness and understanding; a visit that inspires even more neighbours and colleagues to get personally involved in the fight against HIV.

A successful visit means raising money for both your local support group(s) and The Quilt Project. This may be achieved by:

  • Organising pre-display fundraiser(s)
  • Donations
  • Sale of merchandise


A Quilt visit is an adventurous undertaking, which will create an avenue for HIV education and awareness as well as generate dollars. Careful thought and planning are essential. This will help to keep finances under control, and also to attract and fully utilise energetic, dedicated volunteers. Advanced planning is also the only way to attract media attention.

By making the Quilt available to all sectors of your local community, you ensure the participation of the widest possible diversity of people both in the planning and in viewing the Quilt. One way to maximise the success of the Quilt visit is to form a Host Committee made up of representatives from each sector of the community it will visit. Whether or not the Quilt is visiting a marae, it is a good idea to include an advisor for local Māori protocol, particularly if you wish to welcome the Quilt with a Powhiri. Although we include relevant Māori protocol we are aware of, each region may vary slightly.

Although we expect one individual to retain overall responsibility and accountability for your Quilt visit, organisation and implementation can be spread among as many as is practical.

On receiving your block(s) remove from the bag and open up to see what it (they) actually look like.
Notice that some panels will be vertical, some horizontal.
There are a few panels which have bits that attach and therefore sometimes when they move become detached. Simply reattach them.

To refold the quilt: (two people make it easier)

  1. Do so from a vertical aspect: Take top and bottom corner and fold half way to centre from both sides
  2. Then do the same again and then fold once more. You now have just one long quilt as it were.
  3. NOW fold each end once towards the centre but this time horizontally and repeat.
  4. Fold in half so as to form a square and you will have one neatly folded Quilt block.

Displaying the Quilt

Although displays vary in size and configuration, each one is a display of 12 feet by 12 feet blocks (normally 8 individual panels joined together) and may be held either indoors or outdoors. In the case of an outdoor venue, it is best to have an indoor venue on standby in the event of rain. When choosing a venue be respectful that for many people the Quilts must be honoured and treated like the dead.

Sometimes these blocks are presented in a hanging display by using the grommets that surround each block. Each block hung must either touch the ground or have a ribbon attached to the block which touches the ground, to maintain a grounding with the earth. More often they are laid out on the floor or ground with walkways between each block.

For Maori it is important for the blocks to be laid on a mat to form a protecting layer, as the dead would not be laid directly upon the ground or floor. For this reason and for protection of the Quilt we ask that tarpaulin (or similar) are placed underneath the blocks to protect them from possible damage, especially for outdoor displays. The grommets can be used to secure the blocks to the ground by using tent pegs or similar. Bricks or stones may be used if on tar seal.

To make sure that the Quilt is protected from harm, we ask that all displays are held away from food, drink and smoke. During candlelight ceremonies it is important not to allow candles to be near the Quilt, both for fire protection as well as damage from dripped wax.

A kawakawa leaf (the sign of death and mourning) or any greenery is to be placed on or around each block while they are on display. These should be renewed as required.

A bowl of water should be available for those who wish to cleanse themselves or ‘lift the tapu’ after being around the dead.

Other site considerations to keep in mind include the need for donations, sales and information areas, as well as “rest” areas for your volunteers.

Security of the Quilt is always a prime concern. For indoor displays we ask that it be a lockable site if the Quilt is to be housed there for a time. Outdoor displays must see the Quilt folded at the end of the day and laid out again the next.

Signature Panel:

A tradition often seen at the conclusion of the opening ceremony is to invite those attending to sign a “Signature Panel”, starting with the dignitaries, unfolders and readers. This is a 6’ x 3’ blank panel (usually made of calico or some similar cheap, plain fabric) to which people sign their names using fabric felt tipped pens. This creates a register of the event which can be displayed in your area or sent back to the Project to be joined with other signature panels. When sewn together, they form blocks which are then used as protection (under or over as needed) for the Quilt.


  • The official name of The Project is The New Zealand Quilt Project: An AIDS Memorial (written as ‘The Project’ in these Protocols), but is also known as:
    – The AIDS Quilt Aotearoa New Zealand
    – The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt
    – The Quilt Project
    – The Quilt
    No other name or abbreviation may be used.
  • The organising group must respect the diversity of cultures, beliefs and values within the community when organising a visit. For Maori and many others, the Quilt is very spiritual – wairua – and must be treated with the same respect as the dead.
  • The Quilt shall be accompanied by the National Convenor or her/his designated representative. This will ensure a standardisation of all tours, displays, and so on.
  • To aid this standardisation, The Project requires an individual to undertake overall responsibility for the visit of The Quilt to their regional area. Such individual (known as the ‘coordinator’) shall be responsible for the implementation of and adherence to all Quilt Project protocols, policies, and guidelines.
  • To further aid this standardisation, it is incumbent upon the coordinator to fully plan pre, during and post visit details in close liaison with the National Convenor or her/his representative.
  • The general well-being, security and care of The Quilt while on tour shall be the responsibility of the coordinator.
  • Travel and accommodation expenses of the National Convenor or her/his representative shall be met by the organising group.
  • The Project undertakes to arrange the transport of The Quilt to the designated area by the date requested by the organising group. However, the expenses incurred shall be the responsibility of the organising group, unless otherwise negotiated with The Project.
  • The Project requires the organising group to undertake to return the Quilt (presently based in Auckland) on the first practicable day following the end of the display in that area, or forward on to another area (by prior arrangement with the Convenor).
  • Expenses incurred locally for a visit of the Quilt are the responsibility of the organising group in that locality.
  • Moneys raised from fundraising and/or donations during The Quilt visit in any region shall be dispersed in the following ways: first, to pay all expenses incurred by the visit of The Quilt; second, remain in that region for local HIV services; and, third, to assist The AIDS Quilt Aotearoa New Zealand’s on-going running costs.
  • All proceeds from the sale of Quilt merchandise and other official promotional material shall be forwarded to the Project office within 10 working days of the end of the visit. All such materials shall be sold at the established prices, and shall be strictly accounted for. An inventory of such articles shall be kept and any discrepancy shall be the responsibility of the coordinator.
  • The production of a poster and general pamphlet(s) shall be the responsibility of The Quilt Project. The production and/or display of any other publicity material associated with a Quilt visit will need prior approval from The Project.
    Any material forwarded for consideration must be non-threatening and sensitive to the diversity of beliefs, values and cultures within the general community. The power of the Quilt lies within its non-political, non-threatening approach.
  • Any event, display or fundraiser in any way associated with The Quilt needs prior approval from The Project. Until approval is given, neither the official name nor its abbreviations can be used.
  • The Project requires a report about the visit/display/unfolding ceremony held in each area, and requests the forms be completed and returned within 10 working days following the end of the display in that area.
  • Displays, ceremonies, and viewings of The Quilt by the public shall be free of cost to them. Fundraising events, however, may incur a cost.
  • Any panel which has not been officially turned over to and become part of The Project, shall be considered to be on loan for a particular display, and shall be on loan to a designated individual, not to The Project. Such individual shall be responsible for its care and well-being until returned to the owner. This is not encouraged to be a regular occurrence as it runs counter to the spirit of The Project. It is understood, however, that the process of grief is individual and part of that process is being ready to “give” the panel to The Project.
  • It is The Project’s committed intention to honour requests regarding panels as fairly and impartially as possible. However, once a panel is part of The Project, any alteration to that panel is to be undertaken by the/a panelmaker only, after confirmation of identity. Requests made to not display a certain panel in a particular community will be at the discrepancy of the Convenor.
  • The Project shall be responsible for the maintenance of The Project’s accounts; the long term storage, filing and well-being of the Quilts which are a part of The Project; the organisation of the sewing together of panels into blocks; any communication and liaison with the International Quilt Project; any other aspects of coordination as may be necessary from time to time.

Policy on Access to the Use of the Quilt by groups, organisations or individuals.

The Quilt is a ‘national treasure’ and as such must be used in the most advantageous way for all. To be able to do this and to meet the increase in popularity and demand of the Quilt, the The Project has found it necessary to implement this policy.

As The Quilt is now permanently housed at Te Papa Tongarewea, the Museum of New Zealand, in Wellington, enquiries regarding displays of the blocks should be directed to them. The individual panels are still available from the Auckland office and all enquiries should be sent there (see link on the top left of this page).


The Unfolding Ceremony

You may decide that you wish to have an ‘Unveiling’ or ‘Unfolding’ ceremony as the beginning or focus point of your visit. Here are a few ideas as well as the protocol for unfolding the quilts.

From start to finish the ceremony should not last longer than 30-40 minutes no matter how much Quilt is involved. The number of unfolding teams can be adjusted to compensate and names can continue to be read after the Quilt is completely unfolded.

It is especially important to keep camera people and photographers to the sidelines during the unfolding and names reading part of the ceremony, so as not to detract from the overall effect.

It is very important that the ceremony not include political rhetoric, a particularly religious theme or long speeches. The strength of the Quilt and its message lies in the names; in making it a memorial that must stay above politics and personal biases.

An Unfolding Ceremony is an appropriate and excellent time for the presentation of locally made panels to the Project. This may or may not include a procession where people can hand in their own panel, perhaps making a short speech about the panel and/or person it represents.

Readers of the Names/Unfolders of the Quilt:

Reading the names is an honour, and careful thought should go into deciding who reads. Ideally, the mix of readers should include those who can draw the media (prominent citizens, public officials and celebrities), those who should be recognized for their work against HIV (volunteers, panel makers, organisational staff), and those living with HIV and AIDS and their caregivers. They should have good reading voices and enunciate clearly.

Being an unfolder is also considered a special privilege. The same mix of people may be considered. Two teams of 4 people will probably meet the needs of most ceremonies.

Both these groups of people must be available before the ceremony for practices.

The organising of and responsibility for coordinating these groups of people is easily handled by one person designated to do so. This job is a rough juggling act and inevitably requires lots of last minute running around.
Find someone known for their patience and coolness under stress!


  1. Lay out the blocks on the floor where they are to be positioned during the ceremony. Mark each position with tape.
  2. Fold blocks: lay blocks out flat, fold each corner to the middle. Repeat 3 times (4 times in all).
  3. Place folded blocks at 45 degrees to left, within the taped position on the floor.

Unfolding the Quilt:

  1. The unfolders march in and stand around the first block holding hands until the names for that block start to be read out.
  2. Each unfolder grabs a corner of the block from the middle and pulls it back. Repeat until the block is completely unfolded. While the block is being unfolded the names for that block continue to be read out.
  3. Holding the corners, the unfolders lift the block to waist height, move clockwise several steps and lay the block down on the markers.
  4. The unfolders stay kneeling until the last name on their block is read out. They then move into position for their next block to be unfolded.
  5. Generally two groups of 4 people are used as unfolders. Hence, each group is used alternatively until all the blocks have been unfolded.

The Closing Ceremony

You may wish to end your display with a formal ceremony. These are most effective when they are simple and uncluttered.

A gathering of all those involved in the Visit, plus any general public who happen to be around viewing the Quilt; perhaps holding hands in silence for a few moments, perhaps a prayer or blessing being given, perhaps those present being invited to share what being involved with the Quilt has meant to them, perhaps a song.

It is an important way to signify the end of your Visit and speed The Quilt on its way.

Can you help?
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Interested in exhibiting a block?
Interested in exhibiting a block?  Get in touch to enquire.