Media students create documentaries for Spurlock Museum exhibit on AIDS tribute

Students interviewing
College of Media students interview Bruce Lang in a studio at Illinois Public Media in Fall 2021. The interview was one of many conducted by Media students as they produced video biographies of the men represented by quilt panels from the "Sewn in Memory" exhibit at Spurlock Museum. (Photo by Professor Charles "Stretch" Ledford.)


Students in journalism and media and cinema studies produced a series of short documentaries chronicling the lives of local men commemorated in AIDS quilt panels, originally made in the 1980s and 1990s for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Washington, D.C.

The students’ short films are featured in the exhibit “Sewn in Memory: AIDS Quilt Panels from Central Illinois” at the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures in Urbana, on display through July 10, 2022, and can also be watched online. 

The videos were created as part of the course JOUR 280: Specialized Skills and Practices, taught in Fall 2021 by Charles "Stretch" Ledford, associate professor of journalism, in collaboration with Kimberlie Kranich, Illinois Public Media’s Director of Community Content & Engagement. In one special video, Stories Untold, the students shared their experiences attempting to find or verify eight of the men.

“It’s important that this project allows people to be exposed to something like this to catalyze deeper exploration,” Ledford said.

“I hope that this project helps to personalize and illuminate a part of our history that’s rarely talked about or taught,” said Owen Henderson, junior in journalism.

Watch a UI-7 Live report on this student project by journalism senior Amanda Brennan:


Students operating cameras
Journalism student Gwyn Skiles adjusts a camera while fellow journalism student Olivia Welshans prepares for an interview in a studio at Illinois Public Media. (Photo by Professor Charles "Stretch" Ledford.)


Additional collaborators for the exhibit include the Greater Community AIDS Project of East Central Illinois, which holds the panels and assisted in exhibit research and creation, and History Harvest, a course at UIUC, which seeks to gather historical stories and documents from local communities.