Teaching AIDS Objects

In a chapter in the new book Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism, Manon Parry and Hugo Schalkwijk describe several challenges for collecting and exhibiting the history of HIV and AIDS, focusing on Dutch museums. They have created a teaching activity to accompany the publication. Both the chapter and the activity are available at the publisher’s site.

For students:

-Browse the collections of major institutions or look up specific exhibitions, searching for HIV and AIDS-related objects. See, for example, the catalogues for the Wellcome Collection (https://wellcomecollection.org/works) or the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (https://americanhistory.si.edu/), or search for images and articles about the traveling exhibition “Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education, and AIDS in South Africa.”  

-Which perspectives are best represented in these collections? What else could, or should be included? Why?

-Give some other examples of collecting and exhibiting the history of HIV and AIDS, based on a collection or archive in your country or region.

-Browse newspaper reports and Twitter threads about COVID-19, search for online exhibitions on other pandemics, or use other creative ways to find potential objects to document this pandemic. What kinds of things would you want to collect? How would you find these artifacts? Which stories from this unfolding history are most at risk of being lost or underrepresented in museums, in your opinion? Why?

-Choose one object related to AIDS, and one related to COVID-19, and write an 1500-word analysis of each one, explaining what they are, where from, what they represent, what stories you would tell by exhibiting them. What else would you show alongside each and why?

Find out more by reading their chapter in Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism (London and New York: Routledge, 2020), edited by Joshua G. Adair and Amy K. Levin.