“They Were Really Us”: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS — A New Exhibition on Calisphere

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By Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives and Special Collections

When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was at the forefront of medical institutions trying to understand the disease and effectively treat early AIDS patients.

Drawing on materials from the AIDS History Project collections preserved in UCSF’s Archives and Special Collections, the UCSF Library presents “They Were Really Us”: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS, a new digital exhibition on Calisphere that highlights the ways UCSF clinicians and staff addressed HIV/AIDS from its outbreak in the 1980s to the foundation of the AIDS Research Institute in 1996. 

From medical professionals defining the disease and developing a model of care, to activists calling for treatments and public education, this exhibition amplifies the resilience of a community not only responding to its local needs, but also breaking ground on a larger scale with efforts that continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today. 

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt panels displayed at San Francisco City Hall during San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade, UCSF Library, Archives and Special Collections.

This exhibition, including the digitization of materials used in this exhibition, has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (PW-253755-17) “The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing, Reuniting, and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records,” awarded to the UCSF Library in 2017-2020.

About UCSF Archives and Special Collections

UCSF Archives and Special Collections identifies, collects, preserves, and maintains rare and unique materials to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve UCSF institutional memory. The Archives serve as the official repository for the preservation of selected records, print and born-digital materials, and realia generated by or about the UCSF, including all four schools, the Graduate Division, and the UCSF Medical Center.

The Special Collections encompasses a Rare Book Collection that includes incunabula, early printed works, and modern secondary works. The East Asian Collection is especially strong in works related to the history of Western medicine in Japan.The Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of 400 prints and 100 scrolls, dating from 16th to the 20th century. The Special Collections also contains papers of health care providers and researchers from San Francisco and California; historical records of UCSF hospitals; administrative records of regional health institutions; photographs and slides; motion picture films and videotapes; and oral histories focusing on development of biotechnology; the practice and science of medicine; healthcare delivery, economics, and administration; tobacco control; anesthesiology;  homeopathy and alternative medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; high altitude physiology; occupational medicine; HIV/AIDS and global health.

About Calisphere

Calisphere provides free access to California’s remarkable digital collections, which include unique and historically important artifacts from the University of California and other educational and cultural heritage institutions across the state. Calisphere provides digital access to over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more.
Calisphere Exhibitions are curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding. Exhibitions tell a story by adding context to selected digital primary sources in Calisphere, thereby bringing the digital content to life. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated by contributing institutions and undergo editorial review. We are currently refining these processes, which are outlined in the Contributor Help Center. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about Calisphere Exhibitions.

New Online Exhibit – Shanti Projects: Histories of Shanti Project and the AIDS Crisis

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We are delighted to announce a launch of an online exhibit, Shanti Projects: Histories of Shanti Project and the AIDS Crisis curated by University of Minnesota American Studies graduate student Brendan McHugh. It documents Shanti Project’s AIDS care work during the early decades of the AIDS crisis. Since 1974 Shanti has provided psychosocial peer support counseling to people with life-threatening illnesses and their loved ones in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, Shanti rose to the challenge by creating groundbreaking services for people living with AIDS/HIV. For much of the 1980s and 1990s Shanti was one of the largest AIDS organizations in the U.S. The plurality of the exhibit’s title reflects the vast array of people’s experiences at Shanti during that time period, as well as those who work with Shanti today. Visit the exhibit at https://shantiprojects.dash.umn.edu

Shanti Projects online exhibit homepage
Shanti Projects online exhibit homepage

Shanti Projects is organized to reflect the process of becoming involved with Shanti as a volunteer. Alongside the main exhibit are three multimedia pages showcasing the work of photographers Judi Iranyi, Mariella Poli, and Jim Wigler and their portraits of people with AIDS/HIV who played important roles with Shanti. In the future, the final page Active Listening will provide audio clips from oral histories conducted for this project with accompanying transcripts to follow. Additional materials and sources have been provided by The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society, University of California, San Francisco, and generous interviewees personal materials.

A Shanti Support Group, circa 1985. Photo by Judi Iranyi
A Shanti Support Group, circa 1985. Photo by Judi Iranyi

There will also be a newsletter published monthly to announce updates on new material and events connected to the exhibit. Please sign up through the link on the exhibit website. For more information contact Brendan McHugh at mchug103@umn.edu.

[This press release was provided by Brendan McHugh]

Surviving and Thriving: A new exhibit at ZSFG

By Griffin Burgess

Announcing a new exhibit at ZSFG!

From January 28th to March 9th, the National Libraries of Medicine’s traveling exhibit, Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture will be on display in the lobby of the main hospital (Building 25) at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

The exhibit is only available for six weeks, so be sure to visit as soon as you can!

From NLM:

The exhibition explores the rise of AIDS in the early 1980’s and the evolving response to the epidemic over the last 30 years.

The title Surviving and Thriving comes from a book written in 1987 by and for people with AIDS that insisted people could live with AIDS, not just die from it. Jennifer Brier, the exhibition curator, explains that “centering the experience of people with AIDS in the exhibition allows us to see how critical they were, and continue to be, in the political and medical fight against HIV/AIDS.”

 Protestors in front of the James A. Shannon Building, National  Institutes of Health, 1990  Courtesy Donna Binder
Protestors in front of the James A. Shannon Building, National Institutes of Health, 1990 Courtesy Donna Binder

Surviving and Thriving presents their stories alongside those of others involved in the national AIDS crisis. The six-banner traveling exhibition utilizes a variety of historic photographs as well as images of pamphlets and publications to illustrate how a group of people responded to, or failed to respond, to HIV/AIDS.

Robert C. Gallo, M.D. at the National Institutes of Health, early 1980’s . Courtesy National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
Robert C. Gallo, M.D. at the National Institutes of Health, early 1980’s. Courtesy National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

This exhibition was produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health and curated by Jennifer Brier, PhD, University of Illinois.


The Anatomy of an Archive: The Renée Hoffinger Papers

Introduction by Polina Ilieva

During the spring semester 2018 the archives team co-taught and facilitated a new History of Health Sciences course, the Anatomy of an Archive. The idea of this course was conceived by the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine (DAHSM) Assistant Professor, Aimee Medeiros and UCSF Head of Archives & Special Collections, Polina Ilieva. Kelsi Evans, Project Archivist, co-facilitated the discussion sessions and Kelsi, Polina and David Uhlich, Access and Collections Archivist, served as mentors for students’ processing projects throughout the duration of the course.

The goal of this course was to provide an overview of archival science with an emphasis on the theory, methodology, technologies and best practices of archival research, arrangement and description. The archivists put together a list of collections requiring processing and also corresponding to students’ research interests and each student selected one that she/he worked on with her/his mentor to arrange and create a finding aid. During this 10 week long assignment students developed competence researching and describing an archival collection, as well as interpreting the historical record. At the conclusion of this course students wrote a story about their experience and collections they researched for the archives blog. In the next three weeks we will be sharing these posts with you.

This week’s story comes from Aaron J. Jackson, PhD student, UCSF Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine. 

Post by Aaron J. Jackson

In the Spring term of 2018, my fellow History of Health Sciences (HHS) students and I in the UCSF Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine (DAHSM) had the opportunity to take a class on archival science with the staff of the UCSF Archives and Special Collections. Led by Archivist Polina Ilieva, Ph.D., and DAHSM Assistant Professor Aimee Medeiros, Ph.D., this class provided us with an overview of archival science with an emphasis on theory, methodology, and best practices of archival research, arrangement, and description. Most of us had used archives in the past—I even had experience with the UCSF Archives and Special Collections through a blog on the experiences of Base Hospital No. 30 in the First World War—but few of us really understood how archives work, how collections are cultivated and maintained, or the considerations that go into archival collection, assessment, processing, preservation, and presentation. This class provided us with a rare insight into a sector of knowledge production that is all-too-often taken for granted by historians.

UCSF Archives and Special Collections Reading Room and Parnassus Storage Facility.

Many historians and other scholars—myself included, before this class—believe that archives are mere repositories of historically-important data, objective interlocutors who merely preserve the past. Material is collected, inventoried, and stored for future researchers to come along and “discover” the contents and subsequently draw out the stories therein; yet, this is a myth, and one that Drs. Ilieva and Medeiros intended to dispel in their students. To achieve this task, students were allowed to choose from a list of as-yet unprocessed collections. We would be assigned an archivist mentor and process the collections while also meeting each week for a seminar discussion on the historical development and modern concerns of archival science. With my own interests rooted in the history of veterans’ care, I choose the Renée Hoffinger papers because the accession record indicated (with my emphasis) “Renee Hoffinger, MHSE, RD worked in the field of substance abuse for over 20 years at the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System in Gainesville, FL.” While I did not find much of use for my own research, what I discovered while processing the Renée Hoffinger papers will undoubtedly prove to be far more beneficial in the long run.

The Provenance of the Renée Hoffinger Papers

Renée Hoffinger, MHSE, RD, image from “Dietetic Career Spotlight: Renée Hoffinger, MHSE, RD,” by Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, https://www.nutritionjobs.com/blog/blog/dietetic-career-spotlight-renee-hoffinger-mhse-rd/, accessed June 3, 2018.

Renée Hoffinger has been a dietitian since 1982 and interested in nutrition and HIV/AIDS since pursuing a health sciences education in the 1990s. While processing her collection, I had the pleasure of being able to correspond with Renée about her collection and why she donated her papers to UCSF’s AIDS History Project. She noted that her experience of researching HIV/AIDS and providing care for patients in Gainesville was vastly different—in terms of support and information availability—than that of health professionals in larger cities like New York, San Francisco, and Miami. During her volunteer work at the North Central Florida AIDS Network, Renée said she was “given a desk and access to patients at the HIV clinic at the local health [department], and spent a lot of time at the medical library tracking down any information I could get my hands on…. Not feeling like I knew very much, I soon unwittingly became the local ‘expert’ on nutrition and HIV.” Renée spent the rest of her career working with other dieticians interested in HIV/AIDS, and even after her retirement in 2013, she has continued writing about and leading hands-on nutrition education workshops. She had heard about the UCSF AIDS History Project and reached out to Archivist Polina Ilieva to find out how she could contribute, and so she decided to donate her papers to the archive.

This story reveals more than just the background of how Renée Hoffinger’s papers ended up at UCSF to be processed by a first-year Ph.D. student in the HHS program. It provides an anecdotal example of how collections end up in archives. Polina Ilieva’s background as an archivist does not make her an expert in HIV/AIDS nutrition, but it does give her training and insight into what future researchers may look for when investigating the history of AIDS and how contemporary medicine attempted to address it. Renée Hoffinger’s papers are stored at UCSF because they provide a small window into how parts of the country outside the urban epicenters of the disease and aspects of medicine not usually associated with the disease dealt with the epidemic’s effects. Thus, Ilieva decided to choose to take on the archival responsibility for the Hoffinger papers—to assess their potential value, to inventory and process their contents, to build finding aids that would serve future researchers, and to be responsible for maintaining the artifacts in the collection for the use of future generations. But she could have just as easily chosen to leave the responsibility to others for any number of reasons including limited archival space and funding, or because the archivist felt the collection would be a better fit elsewhere. In other cases, archivists actively solicit new collections, seeking permission to preserve the data. The decision to donate/accept the papers was therefore only the first step in the archival preservation of data, and it calls to question: what is missing from archival collections, and why?

Archival Concerns and Overhead

A Selection of HIV-AIDS Nutrition Documents from the Hoffinger (Renée) Papers at UCSF.

The story of how the Hoffinger papers came to reside in UCSF’s archives was only the beginning of a journey in what, at times, could seem like a foreign country. The archives have a unique vocabulary and vernacular. Archivists may speak of the accession or deaccession of artifacts or collections. Their language includes terms like “provenance” and “fonds” as well as concepts like “original order” and “finding aids.” Many of these terms may seem somewhat familiar, but their meaning within the archival space can often be different than the assumptions of those outside it, and those meanings can change over time, which is only one of the difficulties that archivists have to navigate in their mission to collect, preserve, and process archival collections. They put a great deal of work into cultivating collections, processing their contents in accordance with laws, regulations, and industry standards, and making the product of that work available to their target audience, which is often the public but may be restricted in some cases. For example, archivists at healthcare institutions like UCSF must pay special attention to the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). They also need to concern themselves with copyright protections and dozens of other concerns, including securing funding and finding the manpower to process and reprocess miles of archival material. For reference, a 12 x 10 x 15 inch banker’s box contains only 1.25 linear feet of material by archival measurement standards—all of which requires storage space that not only protects the archived data but makes it available to public access. Digitization of archival material puts more stress on archivists’ time and resources, not less, as someone has to digitize the materials and provide for electronic storage and access points, often in addition to caring for the original documents. And all of this can be further complicated by unwilling donors. Some communities, particularly those who have been traditionally marginalized, are difficult to archive, requiring archivists to build long-neglected relationships and partnerships to preserve those aspects of history. In other cases, such as the UCSF Industry Documents Library, many of the contents are collected through court order from institutions who are less than thrilled to be forced to hand over internal documents. Such collections often require extraordinary processing efforts precisely because the donors are uncooperative, leaving the archivists to do their best to understand and arrange the documents in a useful manner.

The Contents of the Renée Hoffinger Papers

The Hoffinger Collection Contains AIDS Line Documents and Industry Publications.

In the case of the Hoffinger papers, the process was relatively straightforward. Renée Hoffinger, being alive and well at the time she deeded her papers to UCSF. The collection includes no patient records, so HIPAA was not a concern. Some of the documents are protected under copyright and therefore not likely to be digitized and posted online, but researchers are always welcome to view the documents in person. Regardless of the relative simplicity of this collection, I realized that what goes into the archives is very much the result of a creative and complicated process of selection, compliance, and access on the part of both the author of the papers and the archivists who collect and process them. In other words, archivists play an important role in precisely what is preserved, and this is something that researchers should keep in mind.

Patient Handouts & North Central Florida AIDS Network Newsletters.

The Hoffinger papers contain information chronologically ranging from 1980 to 2006, topically from the concerns of nutrition on AIDS/HIV wasting syndrome, lipodystrophy, prescription medications, substance abuse, alternative medicine, steroids, protocols, and phosphatidylethanolamine drug combinations known as AL-721 and COQ. Hoffinger also included various publications including many AIDS Nutrition Services Association conference materials and presentations, industry and lay press publications, presentations, course syllabi, and patient handouts and publications. Her papers reflect more than twenty years of professional work in the interests of her patients. How future researchers use these materials is impossible to predict, but it is important that when they access this collection, they understand the role played by everyone involved in the collection, from Renée Hoffinger’s selection of materials to donate and UCSF’s willingness to preserve the papers, to a relatively inexperienced history Ph.D. student who helped process the collection and build the finding aid—the collection of metadata that helps researchers find useful materials within the archives—all played an important role in creating, processing, and preserving this information. If you are interested in this collection or others, you can visit the Renée Hoffinger papers at the UCSF Archives and Special Collections. I would also highly encourage anyone interested in the wealth of information available in this collection to provide feedback to the archivists about this collection or any others that you may explore. Would a certain keyword or phrase be useful to others if included on the finding aid? Did you encounter confidential information that was not flagged as such? Did the archives raise questions about potential gaps in the record? These things and others are useful bits of information that the archivists would appreciate.

The Anatomy of an Archive course in the Spring term of 2018 provided students with an invaluable insight into the behind-the-scenes processes of archival work. It helped us identify some professional blind spots and to think critically about archival data. It also helped us earn a profound appreciation for all the work that our archivists do for their fellow scholars and for their role in helping to create, not just preserve, the historical record. And if there is one invaluable piece of advice I can pass along, it is this: when starting your research, always ask an archivist for help. They know their archives better than anyone else and asking their advice will likely save hours of frustration and/or bear unforeseen fruits. And when you ask them for help, make sure to ask about the provenance of the collections you research. It will not only show that you appreciate their work but also provide you with invaluable information in how you approach your research.

Acknowledgements

This blog post was possible not only because it was a requirement on the syllabus, but because this course provided the author with a novel opportunity to peek behind the curtain. It is with the sincerest thanks to Dr. Aimee Medeiros and archivists Dr. Polina Ilieva, Kelsi Evans, and David Uhlich for making this experience possible and to Renée Hoffinger for being so indulgent with a graduate student’s questions. I would also like to extend appreciation to UCSF digital archivist Charlie Macquarie and Dr. Mario Ramirez of Indiana University for taking the time to join our seminar session discussions and to the members of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of Health Sciences association for so warmly welcoming a historian like me among their ranks. I will endeavor to do for my students what all of you have done for me. Thank you.

New AIDS History Project Collections Online

Materials newly digitized as part of our NEH grant-funded project The Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic are available online on Calisphere.

Most of theses collections represent a “mass digitization” approach to putting materials online. In most cases (Ephemera Collection excepted), the collections are scanned at the folder level. The objects on Calisphere correspond to the folder titles you see in the collection guides found on the Online Archive of California. 

These objects contain a multi-page pdf of all the papers in each folder. Click the image to download a keyword-searchable pdf.

In some cases, when a folder title actually refers to a group of several folders, you’ll see multiple images (one for each folder) in a carousel below the main image, such as People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure Records, Sex Clubs-Bathhouses Subject Files.

These collections are ready to research, plenty more on the way.

Bobbi Campell Diary

AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection

ACT-UP Golden Gate

People vs. Owen Bathhouse Closure (San Francisco Public Library)

Barbara Cameron Papers (San Francisco Public Library)

New AIDS Health Project Digital Collection

We’ve started work on our NHPRC grant project, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections.” Throughout the project, we’ll be posting regular updates on Brought to Light.

We’re happy to announce the new AIDS Health Project (AHP) digital collection. The UCSF AIDS Health Project (AHP) began its HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and counseling efforts in 1984 with support from the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH). It grew out of a community commitment to respond and treat itself.

AHP staff and volunteers conducted research and provided mental health counseling, crisis intervention, HIV testing, youth outreach, and social services. Additionally, AHP provided HIV/AIDS training to mental health and other healthcare providers.

AHP implemented innovative programs and developed literature aimed at youth, gay men, minority communities, and other groups. AHP changed its name from the AIDS Health Project to the Alliance Health Project in 2013, expanding its mission to explicitly include the health and wellness of LGBTQ people. Check out their current work at ucsf-ahp.org.

You can view the complete AHP digital collection on Calisphere. To research the AHP records in person, please make an appointment with us.

Digital Collection of Selma Dritz, Epidemiologist and AIDS Researcher

We’ve started work on our NHPRC grant project, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections.” Throughout the project, I’ll be posting regular updates on Brought to Light.

For our first installment, we’re highlighting the new digital collection of Selma Dritz. Selma K. Dritz, MD, MPH, served as Assistant Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control and Chief of the Division of Occupational Health of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) from 1967-1984. She played a seminal role in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area, tracking cases and collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UCSF to help establish the etiology and epidemiology of the disease. She worked to educate gay and straight people about AIDS and its prevention.

The digital collection includes photographs, correspondence, research, ephemera, and other selected material.

The Dritz papers in part document the relationships Dritz cultivated with other physicians, researchers, and community advocates. For instance, during her tenure at SFDPH, Dritz developed a close working relationship with Randy Shilts, author of And the Band Played On, a groundbreaking work that chronicled the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The digital collection includes thank you cards Shilts wrote to Dritz and the program for Shilts’s memorial service and Dritz’s handwritten notes she prepared for it following his death in 1994.

To view the Dritz digital collection, visit Calisphere.org. There you can also view other digitized material from collections in the AIDS History Project, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation records and AIDS Ephemera collection.

If you would like to research the Dritz papers (MSS 2009-04), please make an appointment with us.

NEH awards leading San Francisco institutions $315,000 to digitize AIDS archives

 

The Archives and Special Collections department of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Library, in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society, has been awarded a $315,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The collaborating institutions will digitize about 127,000 pages from 49 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area and make them widely accessible to the public online. In the process, collections whose components had been placed in different archives for various reasons will be digitally reunited, facilitating access for researchers outside the Bay Area.

The 24-month project, “The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic:  Digitizing, Reuniting, and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records” will commence on July 1, 2017. The 127,000 pages from the three archives range from handwritten correspondence and notebooks to typed reports and agency records to printed magazines. Also included are photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, and posters. The materials will be digitized by the University of California, Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit, which has established a reputation for digitizing information resources so that they can be made available to the world via the web. All items selected for digitization will be carefully examined to address any privacy concerns. The digital files generated by this project will be disseminated broadly through the California Digital Library, with the objects freely accessible to the public through both Calisphere, operated by the University of California, and the Digital Public Library of America, which will have an AIDS history primary sources set.

“A digital repository of 127,000 pages from 49 collections from these three institutions not only allows the collections to ‘speak’ to one another in novel ways, but makes them accessible to a broad array of audiences.  Within academia, historians of medicine and public health will be joined by sociologists and historians of gender, sexuality, and journalism, for starters.  They will be eager to make such remarkable primary source materials available to undergraduate, graduate, and medical students alike.  But such materials have a far wider potential audience,” said Scott H. Podolsky, M.D., Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Haipeng Li, University Librarian, University of California, Merced Library stated that “the UC Merced Library is very pleased to be partnering on this project, which builds upon our long-standing collaboration with UCSF Library to digitize rare and unique materials in the health sciences. Our students and researchers, especially those involved in UC Merced’s growing public health program, will benefit from wider access to the AIDS history materials and I am sure the experience and expertise of our staff will enable them to contribute significantly to the success of the project.”

The AIDS epidemic became one of the most significant public-health events of the late-twentieth century, continuing into the twenty-first. San Francisco was particularly hard hit by AIDS, in part because, by the early 1980s, it had become a welcoming place for gay men who moved from throughout the country and around the world to experience a flourishing community. This same diaspora also fueled, early on in the crisis, the development of unique community-based organizations (CBOs) to care for the sick and dying. At the same time, the AIDS crisis engendered unprecedented modes of political activism. Desperate people with HIV/AIDS and their allies hoping for a cure, held protests and sit-ins at medical conferences and became respected colleagues in the search for effective treatments while demanding early access to therapies, shaking up the staid world of medical research. Art and literature, too, most notably the AIDS Quilt, were created out of the grief and loss caused by the epidemic.  Beginning in the mid-1980s, San Francisco witnessed the development of a highly effective collaborative network of city and state agencies, hospitals, health care providers, and CBOs that, through a goal of putting patients first, became known as the “San Francisco model” of compassionate AIDS care.

“The early years of the AIDS epidemic are just over the historical horizon for many who will themselves be forced to wrestle with issues of disease stigmatization and the blurred domains between medicine and society.  These are our future patients, clinicians, politicians, and policymakers alike.  It is thus important that such collections – documenting a central, if difficult, part of our nation’s history – be exposed to as wide a public as possible,” said Podolsky.

In the late 1980s, UCSF initiated, with the GLBT Historical Society and other Bay Area archives, the AIDS History Project, addressing the need to forge relationships between historians and the AIDS community to document and preserve the lessons and experience of the AIDS epidemic. Today UCSF, the GLBT Historical Society, and SFPL archivists have selected collections from each archive that will contribute to an understanding of the medical, social, and political processes that merged to develop effective means of treating those with AIDS, educate the public about HIV, create social support organizations for those who were often shunned by family, and advocate for a community that was dying at an alarming rate.

Terry Beswick, Executive Director of the GLBT Historical Society explained, “We were founded in 1985 in San Francisco, at a time when it was becoming increasingly apparent that AIDS was threatening the historical memory of the LGBTQ community. In fact, we lost many of our founders and supporters to AIDS – and many are living with HIV today. That’s why this project is especially important to us. AIDS and, more importantly, the San Francisco Bay Area’s response to the epidemic, have been both the catalyst for our formation and one of our main historical influences.”

“The San Francisco Public Library houses both the City and County of San Francisco city archives and the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, the first research center for GLBT collections in a public library in the country. In its role as the repository of the city archives, the library receives collections from politicians, including mayors, as well as from city departments, many addressing policy decisions and the creation of the “San Francisco model” in response to the devastation of the AIDS epidemic,” said Luis Herrera, San Francisco City Librarian. “Not only will the proposed collaborative project allow greater access to primary source materials that are located only in San Francisco, but it will ensure that these items are digitally preserved for long lasting use. We also welcome the opportunity to “reunite” collections that were given to multiple institutions in separate donations over time or from different donors.”

“Rarely in the history of human societies has there been an opportunity to capture information in real time about a new disease that became a pandemic. The story is multi-focal: the medical response, the cultural response, the political response, and the caregiving response”, said Victoria A. Harden, Founding Director Emerita, Office of NIH History.

Providing online access to the digital archival collections will benefit a diverse group of users, including scholars in disciplines such as history, literature, medicine, jurisprudence, journalism, and sociology; college and university students in an equally broad range of fields; media outlets; and members of the general public.

“It is wonderful to think that a future researcher could, at the click of a button, shift quickly from Shilts’s book to his handwritten interview notes, to Selma Dritz’s slides about venereal disease, to the diary pages of Daniel Turner or Bobbi Campbell, or to the administrative records of the institutions involved – records which are currently geographically distant, despite having been tightly connected thematically in the past,” said Richard A. McKay, D.Phil., a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

The project team has established a five-member Advisory Board that will be available to consult with project team members as needed to asses and resolve issues related to sensitive materials in the collections. Members include:

  • Barbara A. Koenig, PhD, RN, Professor of Medical Anthropology & Bioethics in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Institute for Health & Aging and Head of UCSF Bioethics Program
  • Phoebe Evans Letocha, Collections Management Archivist at Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
  • Jeffrey Reznick, PhD, chief, History of Medicine division at National Library of Medicine
  • Paul Volberding, Professor of Medicine, UCSF; Director, AIDS Research Institute; Director, Global Health Sciences Research; Co-Director, UCSF-GIVI Center for AIDS Research
  • Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, UCSF Dean of the Graduate Division, Vice Chancellor – Student Academic Affairs, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine

“UCSF and affiliated faculty and staff including those at Zuckerberg San Francisco General, played a leading role in responding to the horrendous HIV epidemic. The experiences of that response and the lessons learned that can help guide future challenges demand we collect and preserve documents from those early days.” said Paul Volberding, Director, AIDS Research Institute; Director, Global Health Sciences Research; Co-Director, UCSF-GIVI Center for AIDS Research. “We are thrilled that the UCSF Archives along with our partners at the SF Public Library and the GLBT Historical Society has received grant funding to support this process. We are certain that this archive will be a powerful research tool for historians as they help us better understand our contributions. The UCSF AIDS Research Institute is eager to do all we can to help this vital resource.”

At the conclusion of the project, public access to the materials will be launched in a variety of ways. The availability on Calisphere and Digital Public Library of America will be promoted online, and the content of the collection will be explored through exhibits and public programs at each of the collaborating institutions, including at UC Merced. Finally, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the 1989 “AIDS and the Historian” conference, a national conference on the history of the response to the AIDS epidemic will be presented in San Francisco.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

About UCSF Archives & Special Collections (UCSF Library)
The mission of the UCSF Archives & Special Collections is to identify, collect, organize, interpret, and maintain rare and unique material to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve institutional memory. The UCSF AIDS History Project (AHP) began in 1987 as a joint effort of historians, archivists, AIDS activists, health care providers, scientists, and others to secure historically significant resources documenting the response to the AIDS crisis, its holdings currently include 42 collections and they continue to grow. www.library.ucsf.edu

About the San Francisco History Center (San Francisco Public Library)
The San Francisco History Center holds a comprehensive, non-circulating research collection covering all aspects of San Francisco history from the time of the area’s earliest habitation to the present day. The material sheds light on many aspects of the City’s history: its geography and architecture; its politics and government; the lives of citizens, both prominent and ordinary; and the contributions of ethnic, cultural and social groups in creating the City’s vibrant character. The Center also holds the official archives of the City and County of San Francisco. www.sfpl.org

About the GLBT Historical Society
As an internationally recognized leader in the field of LGBTQ public history, the GLBT Historical Society collects, preserves and interprets the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the communities that support them. Founded in 1985, the society maintains one of the world’s largest collections of LGBTQ historical materials at its archives and research center in San Francisco’s Mid-Market District, in addition to operating the GLBT History Museum in the Castro neighborhood since 2011. www.glbthistory.org

About UC Merced Library
The UC Merced Library opened its doors to the inaugural class of University of California, Merced students in August 2005. From the beginning, the library has been the hub of the campus and a center for innovation. As a center of expertise in the digitization, curation, publication, and preservation of information resources, the Digital Assets unit enables and assures long-term access to digital collections that support the research areas of the UC Merced intellectual community and beyond. library.ucmerced.edu

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov

New HIV/AIDS History Material on Calisphere

Highlighting some recently added HIV/AIDS history material now available on our digital collections on Calisphere:

AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection

Material includes posters and pamphlets related to the medical and/or social aspects of AIDS and HIV, with a focus on prevention and on addressing misconceptions about the virus and disease. Call number: MSS 2000-31.

Campbell (Bobbi) Diary

Selected material from the diary of Bobbi Campbell, nurse and self-identified “AIDS Poster Boy.” Campbell was one of the first and most public People with AIDS (PWAs), speaking at numerous conferences and other events. The diary is dated July 1983 through February 1984. Call number: MSS 96-33.

Sally Hughes AIDS Research Collection

Selections from research materials collected by historian Sally Hughes in preparation for AIDS oral histories that she conducted. The interviews document the experiences of physicians, nurses, and scientists who played key roles in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Call number: MSS 2001-04.

AIDS-Patient Needs flowchart. Sally Hughes AIDS Research Collection.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

Material from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, an organization founded in 1982 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care. Call number: MSS 94-60.

San Francisco General Hospital Ward 84/86 Records

Selections from the records of San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) Ward 84/86, one of the first clinics in the country to treat and care for HIV/AIDS patients. Call number: MSS 94-61.

Staff of SFGH Ward 84/86, circa 1985. San Francisco General Hospital Ward 84/86 Records.

As we begin our recently awarded NHPRC grant to provide access to new AIDS history collections, we will be adding more digital items to Calisphere. We will keep you posted as we continue to update our collections.

NHPRC awarded a grant to UCSF Archives and Special Collections

NHPRC logo

UCSF Archives and Special Collections (A&SC) is pleased to announce it has been awarded a 2016 National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) grant from the National Archives in support of the project, Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections, an expansion of the AIDS History Project (AHP).

The project will greatly expand the historical record of San Francisco’s broad-based response to the AIDS public health crisis, and make discoverable and accessible by a wide audience a new corpus of materials related to the evolution of that response. These collections reveal breakthroughs in containing the AIDS epidemic and treating AIDS patients that were made possible by the collaborative efforts of educators, researchers, clinicians, and community advocates. The collections included in this grant are interconnected and form a unique body of research materials.

Dr. Selma Dritz, ca. 1982. MSS 2001-04.

The $86,258 award will aid in creating and making accessible detailed finding aids for seven recently acquired collections comprising a total of 373 linear feet. These collections range from the research files of science writer Laurie Garrett and the papers of Drs. Don Francis and John Greenspan of UCSF and Selma Dritz of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, to the records of two UCSF entities, the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies and the AIDS Health Project, and files from the early and pioneering publication AIDS Treatment News, produced by community activist John James. Diverse audiences will benefit from having access to the archival collections comprising this new project. They include scholars and students in disciplines such as history, literature, medicine, jurisprudence, journalism, and sociology,and members of the general public pursuing individual areas of interest, especially younger members of the GLBT community who seek a better understanding of this important period in history.

A small portion of the collections will be digitized and made accessible online. This 18-month project will commence on March 1, 2017.

A&SC would like to thank the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, the UCSF AIDS Research Institute, the California Historical Records Advisory Board, and other supporters for their help with this proposal.

About UCSF Archives & Special Collections
The mission of the UCSF Archives & Special Collections is to identify, collect, organize, interpret, and maintain rare and unique material to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve institutional memory.

Please contact Polina Ilieva, Head of UCSF Archives & Special Collections with questions about this award.

Download a copy of the press release ArchivesJan2017_NHPRC_grant.