The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing, Reuniting, and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records

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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, was awarded a $315,000 implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017. The collaborating institutions are digitizing 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.”

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Past event: Memory Lives On

Memory Lives On: Documenting the HIV/AIDS Epidemic was an interdisciplinary symposium exploring and reflecting on topics related to archives and the practice of documenting the stories of HIV/AIDS.

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of San Francisco’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic