AIDS Objects (from 2017)

Fighting, Caring, Grieving, Surviving – AIDS in the Netherlands

The AIDS pandemic has generated a vast amount of historical and cultural material and yet museums tend to collect only a very limited range of items for permanent preservation and for reuse in exhibitions. Historically significant objects and images have been lost or destroyed – in grief, to protect the privacy of the deceased, or because their value for museums and archives is not well understood. As a result, museum collections do not include a broad enough range of objects to document and exhibit the diverse and complex histories of AIDS. The AIDS Objects initiative is intended to stimulate the identification of artifacts for use in exhibitions and to raise awareness of the importance of preserving material still retained by individuals or health and advocacy organisations.

This digital scrapbook was inspired by a lost object – a scrapbook of staff and patient images, ephemera, and personal memories documenting the activities in the Netherlands’ first AIDS ward at the OLVG. The original artifact has not been found and is presumed destroyed. In this project, images from public archives and private collections and interwoven with a brief history of AIDS in the Netherlands, presented in a digital scrapbook to draw attention to the limited collection and preservation of the material culture of HIV and AIDS.

The project was developed in collaboration with Hugo Schalkwijk and funded by the Amsterdam Centre for Heritage and Identity. A pop-up exhibition based on the scrapbook research was on display in the Amsterdam Pavilion at the Global Village of the International AIDS Society conference, 23-27 July 2018.

In conjunction with the International AIDS Society conference in Amsterdam in July 2018, the AIDS Objects team based at the University of Amsterdam is undertaking a series of projects.