Guest post: The AIDS Scrapbook project by Hugo Schalkwijk

The AIDS Scrapbook project began in a hospital in the center of Amsterdam, where I worked as an administrative employee on the infections ward. I spoke to many hospital staff members who had worked on the hospital’s former AIDS ward, in the 1980s and early 1990s. Twenty years later they still talked passionately about their experiences, and showed me the scrapbook they had kept during this period. The book was filled with memorabilia such as letters from patients and staff, updates on ward-issues, and photographs. This piece of medical heritage documented life, and death, on an AIDS ward in Amsterdam, providing a unique representation of this intense period, from a range of perspectives.

I had hoped to base my MA thesis research on this important historical artifact. Unfortunately it has been lost, presumed destroyed. In discussions with my thesis supervisor, Dr. Manon Parry, we related this loss to the limited range of museum and archival collections used for public histories of AIDS in the Netherlands. We decided to digitally recreate the scrapbook, not as a faithful reproduction of the original, but as an experimental source for historical research and interpretation.

The digital scrapbook displays a range of digital material gathered from the community of AIDS healthcare workers and AIDS survivors. Its storyline is focused on community initiatives in the struggle against the AIDS epidemic. The goal of the AIDS Scrapbook project is to draw attention to the lack in collections of material culture in AIDS histories in the Netherlands. Another goal of the project is to make the medical community aware of the value of their heritage, and to propose developing the archive with a view to the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

Hugo Schalkwijk

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