As part of World AIDS day today, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, acquired last year by USC, is launching a campaign to encourage people who have lost loved ones to AIDS to come forward and give testimonies as well as donate victims’ personal records, including diaries and medical histories.
ONE National Archives is the oldest LGBT organization in the United States and has the largest repository of LGBT material in the world. USC Libraries acquired the organization’s archives last year and has maintained them since.
Christopher Freeman, a professor of English and gender studies and a member of the board of ONE National Inc., said the campaign aims to make its archives more personal.
“The archives are the most detailed source of information on the history and cultural evolution of homosexuality in the United States,” Freeman said. “But they lacked the personal stories of members of the community who suffered and died because of AIDS, as well as the stories of their loved ones who survived them.”
The campaign kickoff event, which will be held at the ONE National Inc. office on Adams Boulevard and Portland Street today, will feature testimonies and talks from long-term survivors, activists, writers and physicians. Dr. Michael Gottlieb, who made the first diagnosis of AIDS in June 1981 at UCLA, will also speak at the event.
“The event will be an opportunity for the people who got left behind to remember the victims and perpetuate their stories,” Freeman said.
In addition to ONE National’s archive, USC Libraries houses a varied collection of other historic documents and archives readily available to students and faculty.
One of the largest digitalized collections is the Regional History Collection, a collection of historic newspapers, the oldest of which is an 1808 edition of the Columbia Centinel, a Boston newspaper. The USC Digital Library also includes a collection of digitized photos published in the historical Los Angeles Examiner newspaper from 1920-1961.
“This collection is of tremendous research value across many disciplines,” said Hugh McHarg, USC Libraries associate dean for planning and communications. “The Examiner collection, accessible globally through the Digital Library, provides invaluable perspectives on Los Angeles politics, culture, crime and entertainment from that era.”
USC Libraries has an original copy of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and established the boundaries between Mexico and California. The USC Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive also contains nearly 52,000 videotaped interviews with witnesses to the Holocaust that were gathered by the Shoah Foundation between 1994 and 2005.
Claude Zachary, the university archivist and manuscripts librarian, said students from a variety of departments use these collections.
“We get a lot of students from history, policy, planning and development, fine arts and many other departments,” Zachary said. “We provide access through a reading room in our Special Collections department in Doheny Library.”
Elise Tasooji, a senior majoring in communication, recently used the archives for a class project and said she was very impressed by their detail and depth.
“I was working on a movie about the Los Angeles freeway system and needed photos for the historical aspect of the film,” Tasooji said. “The Dick Whittington collection had a large number of aerial photos of the freeways as well as photos of their early construction.”
Tasooji also said the libraries’ staff members were very helpful and prompt when she contacted them.
“I emailed the curator of the archives describing my project and she got back to me with a list of archive material that she thought would be relevant to the movie and I just picked out what I wanted,” Tasooji said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Dr. Robert Gallo, the researcher who originally discovered HIV, was invited to speak at the event. The speaker was Dr. Michael Gottlieb.