Smithsonian marks 30th anniversary of HIV/AIDS epidemic


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will mark the 30th anniversary of the emergence of what became known as the HIV and AIDS epidemic with a three-part display and website beginning June 3.

“HIV and AIDS Thirty Years Ago” will look at the public health, scientific and political responses in the early phase (1981-87) of the global pandemic. This showcase will be located in the museum’s “Science in American Life” exhibition, which focuses on the connections among science, culture and society in American history. The display will feature photographs, magazine covers and other graphics .

The website will be available at

In “Archiving the History of an Epidemic: HIV and AIDS, 1985-2009,” the museum’s Archives Center will show how individuals and society were affected by the epidemic through a selection of archival materials from its collections, including posters for the 1993 movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and the 1989 film Longtime Companion; brochures, photographs and other popular culture materials; and quotes from oral histories of people affected by the epidemic.

The museum will also display a panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt of the Names Project Foundation, honoring Roger Lyon, who died of complications from AIDS in 1984 shortly after testifying before Congress to appeal for funding to combat the growing epidemic.

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