South Australian HIV/AIDS and queer history deserves to be preserved. Following the flood of community interest in the 2022 exhibition Silhouettes: Fashion in the Shadow of HIV/AIDS, SAMESH is building an archive of historical items.
The archive currently is composed of the South Australian AIDS Memorial Quilts, posters, t-shirts, newspapers, magazines, and more.
SAMESH Team Leader and Silhouettes curator Skye Bartlett said Silhouettes was so popular thanks to its exploration of the intersection of health promotion and culture.
“It proved to us that there’s an interest in HIV/AIDS history, and the success of the last SA AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibition reinforced that,” he said.
“As South Australia’s leading HIV health promotion program, it made sense for us to collect more of these objects ourselves.”
While there are small collections locally, there’s not been a larger-scale effort. After working with historic organisations like the History Trust of SA, SAMESH is well positioned to collect HIV/AIDS-related ephemera.
The collection is growing thanks to donations from SAMESH team members and numerous community members.
“Greg Kelly donated a large collection of posters and SHINE SA CEO Holly Skene donated several t-shirts,” Skye Bartlett said.
“It’s exciting to see the community trust us with these historic items so we can preserve our local history and share that in future exhibitions.”
While the SA AIDS Memorial Quilts hold a lot of history, other items like newspaper and magazine clips help tell a more complete story of the resistance and political activism in SA at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Skye reflected on how many of the themes explored in these historic items remain relevant in the fight today against the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.
“You see that in a lot of the posters, pins, and t-shirts, and it shows in some ways how far we’ve come, but also how far we have yet to go,” he said.
If you have items that you think might be of interest to the SAMESH Archive, reach out to: [email protected].