by Gerard Koskovich
Responding to the shock, grief and disorientation the LGBTQ community experienced at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic was one of the factors that inspired the creation of the GLBT Historical Society in 1985. The first issue of our newsletter offered this explanation: “Part of the dying and grieving processes involves remembering and reflecting on the past, and the crisis itself has heightened our awareness of the history of the present.”
Our archives reflect this early and enduring commitment to preserving the memory of lives lost to AIDS and to documenting the impact of the epidemic on the LGBTQ community and Northern California as a whole. While researching a talk about the Historical Society’s three decades of work on the history of HIV/AIDS that I gave last month at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations in Marseille, France, I did a preliminary assessment of our AIDS-related holdings.
Here’s some of what I learned: Among our approximately 600 collections of organizational records and personal papers, at least 140 include materials dealing with HIV/AIDS. In our periodicals collection, 68 magazines focus entirely on the topic. Our collections of photographs, ephemera, posters, t-shirts, artifacts, audio recordings, and film and video likewise include documentation on the epidemic. The holdings represent a range of overlapping groups, including LGBTQ people, women, people of color, transgender individuals, injection drug users, immigrants and prisoners.
To learn more about this exceptionally rich body of historical materials, visit the Archives page on our website. Enter the keywords “AIDS” and “HIV” into the searchable catalog of archival collections to discover materials you can consult in our reading room. And search the digitized audio collections, too, for links to the full recordings of 32 gay radio programs from 1983-1984 that report on the AIDS crisis.