To mark World AIDS Day on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, more than 1,000 new posters from one of the world's largest AIDS education poster collections have been digitized and put online by archivists at the University of Rochester.
Launched online last October during the 30th anniversary year of the identification of HIV/AIDS, the exhibit from the Atwater AIDS Education Poster Collection draws from an assortment of more than 6,200 posters from more than 100 countries in 60 languages and dialects. While selections of the posters have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and other locations, once completed, the online collection will provide the first opportunity for the public to view the collection in its entirety.
Collected by retired physician Dr. Edward C. Atwater, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, the posters provide a visual history of the first three decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1981 to the present.
"When Dr. Atwater decided to donate the collection, he thought it was appropriate to donate it to the University's library because he felt it is not just a medical history, but a social and cultural history," said Melissa S. Mead, the university's John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian.
"My hope is to show people the responses from various societies to a deadly disease. Looked at chronologically, the AIDS posters show how social, religious, civic, and public health agencies tailored their message to different groups," said Atwater, 86, a self-professed collector who lives in Rochester, N.Y. Depending on their audience, creators of the posters used stereotypes, scare tactics, provocative language, imagery, and even humor to educate the public about the disease.
More than 2,000 of the collection's posters are now online with additional posters being added on a regular basis. "A lot of these posters are in foreign languages and need translating. We are eager to have people send in translations and to send us suggestions for tagging, which will enable connections between posters that we haven't made ourselves," said Mead.
To access the Atwater AIDS education posters collection online visit http://aep.lib.rochester.edu/. In addition to the posters, the site contains research conducted by Rochester students who have used the collections, an introduction to the collection by Alexander Brier Marr, a doctoral student in visual and cultural studies, and links to additional AIDS educational resources.
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