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Tulane Hosts Summit On The Homemade Mask Movement

For months now, individuals have sat at sewing machines for thousands of hours, making masks to protect people from the spread of COVID-19. These sewists joined artists, scientists, medical professionals, historians, designers, lawyers, singers, and others to create a homemade mask movement.

This week, Tulane University hosts a two-day virtual Homemade Mask Summit (HMS) to bring sewists and scientists together for a free, two-day discussion to reflect on past months and plan for the future. Fifty-five panelists will be discussing the state of masks over the two days.

The Summit takes place via Zoom on Wednesday, June 17, and Saturday, June 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT. Register on Eventbrite to attend. All recordings will be available to watch after the event.

From Quilting to Mask Making

The Homemade Mask Summit is a project of the Just Wanna Quilt podcast, a research project on quilting, copyright, and entrepreneurship hosted by Tulane faculty member Elizabeth Townsend-Gard, Ph.D., JD, and housed at the Copyright Research Lab at Tulane University Law School.

Townsend-Gard is a law school faculty member, director of the Tulane Center for Intellectual Property, and a past holder of the Jill H. and Avram Glazer Professorship in Social Entrepreneurship.

Hosting Interdisciplinary Conversations

In March 2020, the podcast pivoted from quilting to COVID-19 and masks, and Townsend-Gard co-launched the Million Masks a Day project to create masks for essential workers around the country.

Recognizing the need for a conversation on mask making, Townsend-Gard interviewed over 75 guests related to sewing masks during COVID-19 to prepare for the Summit. Featured guests include Ebony Love of Lovebug Studios, Rachna Chandra of Taj Cottage, Angelique Thomas of the Innocence Project New Orleans, William Nemitoff of Curious Form, and many more. Visit the Just Wanna Quilt Podcast website to listen to all of the interviews. 

The Summit offers a variety of topics that affect individual mask makers and small businesses alike. There will be lots of discussion of masks themselves; other topics to be covered during the Summit’s panels include:

  • entrepreneurship
  • science and medicine
  • the intersection of COVID-19 masks with Black Lives Matter and a culture of caring
  • lawyers, prisons, and masks with the Innocence Project New Orleans
  • Broadway and local film costumers making masks for first responders
  • mask-making techniques such as 3D printing
  • community organizing
  • preservation

Visit Just Wanna Quilt’s website to view the full agenda.

Science and Sewists Working Together

A specific goal of the Summit is to host dialogues with scientists about homemade masks. Several studies demonstrate a disconnect between the sewing community’s knowledge and the tests the scientists are conducting. The Summit aims to bridge that gap.

To that end, Summit panelists include several Tulane faculty members in the sciences including Dr. Chad Roy, Director of Infectious Disease Aerobiology at the Tulane National Primate Research Center, Dr. Mark Wilson, assistant professor of Industrial Hygiene, Dr. Roy Rando, professor of Industrial Hygiene, and John Christie, executive director, Office of Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Development at Tulane, along with more leaders in technology and medicine. After the event, recordings of each panel will be made available on the Summit website.

Planned by a Dedicated Student Team

For two months, a core team of undergraduate students, law students, public health students, and medical students worked with Townsend-Gard to grow this project. The following student team has participated in podcast interviewing, organizing the conference, and even making masks:

  • Hailey Barnet, Tulane Law School, ’20
  • Whitney Chatmon, current Tulane Law student
  • John Spartz, Tulane medical student
  • Alexa Magyari, Ph.D. student in public health at the University of California­–Berkeley. This interview with Magyari, who studies health economics, inspired Townsend-Gard to host the Summit.
  • Tal Sherman, Tulane undergraduate student majoring in Neuroscience, led an effort to assist in making masks for the New Orleans community.
  • Sid Gard, a Tulane dual enrollment high school student, created the project’s graphics and logo.
  • Tulane alumna Becky Blank of We Have Masks has also helped with the Summit’s efforts.

After the Summit: Preservation

After the Homemade Mask Summit, the team will work with Tulane’s Newcomb Institute to preserve the mask-making stories shared there in a digital archive. This project invites groups and individuals to deposit photos, documents, lists and patterns, and other elements that will help people understand what sewists did and are still doing.

The HMS team is also working with Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine to request that they capture Facebook groups to preserve conversations as part of the record.

The team also supports the Quilt Alliance, which is capturing individual stories. If you are a mask maker, share your story on the Quilt Alliance Facebook page by clicking “Come Tell Your Story.”

After the Summit: Mask Making Best Practices

Using the information learned at the Summit, the HMS team will work with scientists to develop a pamphlet of best practices for mask making and use.

  • This information will help the sewing community make decisions on fabric, size, and fit to create safe masks.
  • This information should also help consumers recognize a well-made mask, whether purchasing homemade or commercial versions.

Summit Supporters

At Tulane, the Homemade Mask Summit is supported by the Newcomb Institute, the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Freeman School of Business, and the Copyright Research Lab at the Tulane University Law School. The Taylor Center is proud to have offered funds to support to both this project and to Townsend-Gard’s related project, a Million Masks a Day.

Each participant has the option to enter a giveaway, generously donated by additional sponsors. For a full list of supporters, giveaway information, and to view recorded videos, visit the Summit website at justwannaquilt.com/homemade-mask-summit.

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