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Sarah Toce, Windy City Times: AIDS @ 30 Smithsonian Exhibit

AIDS @ 30 Smithsonian Exhibit
by Sarah Toce, September 28, 2011

The National Museum of American History in Washington, DC is marking the 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS through continued education both in-person at the museum as well as online in the form of a newly-functioning website. The program, “HIV and AIDS Thirty Years Ago,” began its run on June 10, 2011 and will continue through November 27, 2011.

Topics encompassed in the online collection include tab titles: Public Health Crisis, Scientific Mystery, HIV and AIDS Today, Magazines, HIV and AIDS 1981-1987, Political Flashpoint, and AIDS Quilt. Users have the ability to navigate story links dating back to the beginning of HIV/AIDS through 2009.

The physical museum showcase will be located in the “Science in American Life” exhibition space, which focuses on the connections among science, culture and society in American history. The display will feature photographs, magazine covers and other graphics plus equipment that Dr. Jay Levy used to isolate the virus in his lab at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as a copy of the Surgeon General’s 1986 report presenting the government’s position on the ever-expanding crisis, samples of the drugs AZT and Retrovir, and public health information pamphlets from AIDS service organizations.

In “Archiving the History of an Epidemic: HIV and AIDS, 1985-2009,” the museum’s Archives Center will show how individuals and society were affected by the epidemic through a selection of archival materials from its collections, including posters for the 1993 movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and the 1989 film Longtime Companion; brochures, photographs and other popular culture materials; and quotes from oral histories of people affected by the epidemic.

A panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt of the Names Project Foundation will be showcased on the first floor artifacts wall. The quilt panel honors Roger Lyon — a man who died of complications from AIDS in 1984.

“The early years of the HIV and AIDS epidemic was a time in our history that affected all Americans,” said Brent D. Glass, the director of the museum. “This display will help visitors understand the scientific mystery, the public health crisis and the political debates created by the epidemic and why these events gripped America 30 years ago.”

In addition to the HIV/AIDS physical and online exhibits, archival materials from the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City and more AIDS Memorial Quilt items will be on display in the museum. There are a total of three million objects chronicling American history present in the museum, including a selection of gay civil rights activist Frank Kameny’s protest signs and materials relating to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

Find out more information about the exhibit see http://hivaids.omeka.net/?CFID=13766514&CFTOKEN=19069235.

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