AIDS Memorial Museum Planned For San Francisco

The New York Times reports:

The National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park here is a somber glen of plants, trees, walks, grass and cairn, with thousands of names etched in stones and pavement. Visitors’ emotions run high, but the details of exactly how AIDS devastated and transformed the world are not found here. “The story of AIDS is more than a disease,” said John Cunningham, executive director of the grove. “The real underpinnings of that story are about humanity, social justice, human rights and what it means to be a citizen of the world. Somehow there needs to be a keeper of the story.”

Now there is a move to create just that: a place to chronicle the AIDS tragedy more comprehensively, to explore the pandemic’s many facets in a permanent national exhibition and repository. It would be similar to institutions commemorating other cataclysmic events: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Japan.

The effort is in its nascent stages, being discreetly explored by the staff and board of the grove, which Congress designated a National Memorial in 1996. (It is the only AIDS-related monument to receive such status.) So far, the grove has engaged consultants, some with a history of fund-raising for museums, to begin gauging the interest of wealthy donors, especially those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Hit the link for much more about the planning. Wilton Manors is already home to the World AIDS Museum. (Tipped by JMG reader Lisa)

  • stanhope

    This MUST happen. Already a generation has forgotten. Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.

  • pch1013

    I just hope it can get done without years of pointless wrangling among NIMBYs, self-appointed stakeholders, anti-gentrification activists, etc., etc., etc., etc.

    But this is San Francisco, so…

    • David Walker

      Hell, you’re dealing with people. All that stuff will happen and, likely, more.

  • I wasn’t part of the generation that got decimated. My only experience with Hiv/Aids was through my ex (but even then, he being undetectable, was not near as bad as the epidemic in it’s heyday). Years before that, I had a friend in Houston who was newly positive, and wanted me to go with him to a meeting about newly infected persons. I of course accompanied him (but have since lost touch with him). People today need to remember. Hell, I need to remember.

    • David Walker

      People need to remember, too, that it hasn’t been cured and the meds don’t work for everyone. That’s not me trying to be a wet blanket (it’s pretty obvious when I do that), it’s me trying to remind people that the plague has not been cured.

      • pch1013

        And now the country is being run by people who would deprive us of any meds whatsoever.

        They want everyone with HIV – except the very richest – to get sick and die. The sooner the better. Because Jeebus.

        • David Walker

          And profits.

    • SelectFromWhere

      Do me one favor–“HIV” and “AIDS” are acronyms and thus always spelled in all caps. The reason it irritates me (besides being wrong) to see them spelled with lowercase is because that is almost always the way you see Right-Wingers spell them (“Aids”) on signs at protests, etc.

  • Michael R
  • Rob

    I got married in the heart of the Grove. I have numerous friends memorialized there and it was,our way of incorporating my friends in our wedding. I was also very sick at that point in time, having gone from 20+ years of being positive to full blown AIDS, since recovered. It will always hold a special place in our hearts.

    • Gene

      what an elegant choice, and a beautiful wedding scene.
      may you have many, many happy years together

      • Rob

        9 years married in June and 19 years total in December, still happy to be around each other.

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  • Chuck in NYC

    I’d object that a better site would be New York, but for some reason archiving this region’s LGBT history hasn’t been an idea that’s galvanized the local community to take much action over the years. The NY Public Library and area museums have done little to no outreach to gather paperwork or ephemera from the hundreds of our LGBT organizations that isn’t overtly political or tied in with someone well known, and The Center is not equipped to safeguard such records in any meaningful, secure fashion. This, with Stonewall 50 approaching.

    So, go for it, San Francisco citizens — I’m sure you’ll get broad-based support from around the country if not also the globe. And I’ll be glad to visit someday, in memory of my friends and others who I continue to wish were still around, just to have known about Lady Gaga, if nothing else.

    • David Walker

      One of the things that I find outstanding about the LGBTQs around here is the outpouring of memorabilia and the willingness to offer oral histories (stop it) about our lives here or what it was like to move here, whether from the larger cities or from the boonies, and to donate all sorts of material to “the history project.” It’s being housed/stored/maintained at the library in Dickinson College. The project doesn’t focus on AIDS but on anything that has to do with gay life in central PA. It’s pretty overwhelming, frankly.

    • SelectFromWhere

      Like it or not, San Francisco will always be seen as “the gay city” and the city that got the most focus when AIDS came out–despite the thousands dying in NY, LA etc–probably because NYC has its own “identity” outside of the Community whereas San Francisco still brings to mind The Gays to almost anyone. So despite living on the East Coast, I think that’s a good place for this.

  • JWC

    This would be a necessary and highly appreciated gesture AIDS was just emerging as I came out Watched and lived through it all Lost many many friends

  • Captain Jack

    I just donated my partners journals that he started writing after his first bout with pneumocystis and stopped writing a few weeks befor he died, he lasted three devastating years. They were weighing heavy on me for years.. the SF LGBT Arcives wanted them so they will be transcribed so others may read how things were back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

    • 2patricius2

      What a wonderful gift that both you and your partner have given to the community!

      • Captain Jack

        Thanks you,
        …on a lighter note Roger was also was the winner of the first jockey shorts contest at the Endup bar that was mentioned in Tales of a City.. ha! I donated the cover of the Kalender with him on it as well….:-)

  • BeaverTales

    Vancouver BC needs something like this. I think the epidemic even got started there first before hitting SF.

    • JWC

      you in Vancouver too

  • JWC

    Vancouver also did a TV series with a doctor suffering from AIDS “Dr Peter ” (not his real name) did segments as the disease progressed

    • HoneyBoySmith

      It’s on YouTube.

      Also, the most haunting AIDS documentary I’ve ever seen is Silverlake Life – the view from here.

      • JWC

        I would image there were several The Dr Peter series was unusual as he was a Dr and fully understood the diagnosis the medications their downside Each installment showed his decline his thought on it He put a very human side to his horrible epidemic Today there is a center in Vancouver called the “Dr Peter Center”that helps Aids patients

        • HoneyBoySmith

          I think, maybe, I was unclear.

          When I said “it’s on YouTube,” I was talking about the Dr Peter series.

          Silverlake Life is also on YouTube. And, I mentioned it because I think it’s SUPER powerful.

          I’ve never been so moved by a documentary.


          • JWC

            Thanx for the info

          • HoneyBoySmith

            Please watch it.

            Even though it’ll break your heart, you won’t regret it.

      • SelectFromWhere

        I agree about Silverlake Life. I still have a copy I recorded off the TV, on videotape. Yes, TAPE.

        • HoneyBoySmith

          I still have a copy I recorded off the TV

          I saw it for the first time around 2005 or so.

          I’d never fully understood what the reality of living with HIV disease in the 1980s was until that point.

          It made me recall an elementary school teacher’s struggle with the virus.

          That teacher died when I was just a young college kid. When I heard about his passing, I cried. And, I grieved. And, I realized for the first time that life isn’t fair.

          I remembered how that teacher took a special interest in me. I think he recognized that I was a little gay boy. I suspect he saw himself in me..

          I wish I could go back in time and thank him for everything he did for me.

          His being my role model as a young gay boy shaped my identity to a pretty profound degree.

          • McSwagg

            The next best thing to going back to thank someone is to pay it forward. Do something significant for someone else and in your heart, dedicate it to your teacher.

  • Halou

    And the usual suspects crawl out of the cracks to protest this, I assume.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    Cue the howls from you know who…..

  • Daniel Bergerac

    I’m proud to say, I was at that first volunteer workday in what was then called deLaveaga Dell. It was a disaster, filled with trash and blackberry bushes. There was something so wonderful working with my hands and back, sweating. Getting cut up by the blackberry. My partner was sick at the time, and giving care to him required a very soft touch. The blackberry, required the opposite. We scattered his ashes in the Grove about 12 months later.

    • SelectFromWhere


  • Texndoc

    I can remember being a medical student back in the day. You couldn’t write the diagnosis in the chart (it would result in insurance non-payment). An early “treatment” that of course proved futile was immediate splenectomy. The virus hadn’t been discovered.

    • JWC

      Or the hospital that would refuse the patientsor the funeral homes who would refuse the bodies It was a very inhuman time

      • Texndoc

        Yes, the patients were inevitably “no codes” meaning you didn’t resuscitate and just let die.

        • JWC

          altho “When We Rise” was a thumnnail sketch of that time It was the things that weren’t mentioned that we lived thru that brought on tears

    • stevenj

      After blood tests were able to detect the retrovirus around 1987, I nervously took my first one in my doctor’s office. I was relieved to find out 2 weeks later it was negative, however the doctor told me he would not bill it through my insurance (as an HIV test) nor would he put the result in my chart for the very same reason – he said I could face cancellation of my health insurance.

  • EweTaw

    A very good idea. And a very good place for such a memorial.

  • Do Something Nice

    This is so important on so many levels. Having lost so many friends and lovers to HIV/AIDS of course there is the memorial aspect to it all.

    But there are so many other stories and lessons:

    *It really changed interactions between patient and doctor. Before AIDS, it was a very paternalistic ‘listen to the doctor’ culture. Now most doctors listen to the patient and engage the patient as part of a team to solve a problem.

    *The way we all came together to ease the pain, to protest and demand treatment and research, housing and support and even forcing laws to change to allow people to buy meds in Mexico and bring them over the border was fucking remarkable. We found our voice.

    *It really eroded the rampant racism and misogyny in the white male gay community in San Francisco during that time.

    There are many many more lessons and I hope that the museum hires a sociologist to document these changes.

  • Natty Enquirer

    Seems like this should be a natural partnership with the GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco, which has been preserving artifacts and documents since the 1980s.