UCSF Archives Receives Grant to Preserve LGBTQ History Collections

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UCSF Archives & Special Collections was awarded a $14,986 local assistance grant by the California State Library for the “Documenting the LGBTQ Health Equity Movement in California” project.

Preserving California’s LGBTQ History is a grant program that funds projects that support physical and/or digital preservation and digitization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) materials relating to California history and culture. This California State Library program will award a total of $500,000 in one-time grants for projects from large archival institutions with a global reach, as well as smaller, localized collections. The program aims to preserve materials that demonstrate the significant role of LGBTQ Californians and the LGBTQ movement in this state, as well as providing a more comprehensive and inclusive view of California’s history.

The UCSF project will support preservation through processing and partial digitization of two collections documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California:

•         San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program Records

•         UCSF LGBT Resource Center Records

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program card

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) Magnet Program is a health and wellness program located in the SFAF’s Strut Center in the heart of the Castro District of San Francisco. They offer community events, sexual health services, substance use counseling, PrEP, HIV and STI testing, learning events and rotating art displays from queer artists.  In spring 2001, a Community Advisory Board comprised of community members, social workers, and activists began meeting regularly to discuss how to proceed with the development of a new Gay Men’s Health Center.  The new center chose to address gay men’s health in innovative ways instead of simply replicating existing programs in a new location. Since 2003, Magnet’s overarching vision has been to promote the physical, mental, and social well-being of gay men. Magnet activities are guided by the following core values of the agency: self-determination, access, sexual expression, diversity, and leadership. Magnet provides individual STI/HIV services and community programs including book readings, art exhibits, town hall forums, and other social events. In 2007 Magnet merged with the SFAF to increase the services available to men throughout the Bay Area. Magnet also serves transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary, and gender-queer people.

This collection includes founding documents, surveys of clients, assessments of services, marketing materials, advocacy campaigns, photographs, community art pieces, and posters documenting the establishment and activities of the Magnet program.

UCSF Visibility Project flyer, 2006 Chancellor's Award for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Leadership
UCSF Visibility Project flyer, 2006 Chancellor’s Award for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Leadership

The LGBT Resource Center serves as the hub for all queer life at UCSF, including the campus and medical center. It works toward creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, faculty, post-docs, residents, fellows, alumni, and patients. It aims to sustain visibility and a sense of community throughout the many campus sites. This community takes an intersectional approach and is committed to building workplace equity, promoting student and staff leadership, and providing high-quality, culturally-congruent care to UCSF patients. Founded in 1998, it was the first LGBT resource center in a health science institution.

This collection includes the center’s founding documents, traces the earlier LGBT community activities in the 1970s through the 1980s, and contains materials chronicling the history and evolution of the center. It also includes records of diverse events organized by the center: Coming Out Monologues, Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience, and Trans Day of Visibility, as well as correspondence and announcements related to OUTlist, Mentoring Program, and Annual LGBTQIA+ Health Forum. These materials also document UC-wide advocacy work for providing equal benefits for same-sex domestic partners.

The UCSF Archives & Special Collections have been working on preserving materials documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California. These two recently acquired collections will enable researchers to investigate these communities’ efforts to address health-related issues and advocate for health equity.

 The Magnet collections allow researchers to investigate how the “San Francisco model” of AIDS care continued to evolve in the twenty-first century by providing free and equitable health care, education, and community space. Both collections contribute to an understanding of the medical, social, and political processes that merged to develop effective means of treating those with AIDS and other illnesses.

Diverse audiences will benefit from having access to this project’s archival collections, including scholars in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, jurisprudence, journalism, history and sociology, college students, and members of the general public pursuing individual areas of interest.

The collections included in this project are currently only accessible at the UCSF Archives reading room. The digitization of these collections will grant access to these valuable primary sources and other hard-to-find materials to scholars, students, and others worldwide. This project will significantly expand the historical record of the LGBTQ health equity movement in California and make a new corpus of materials related to the movement’s progress discoverable to a broad audience.

Save Our Stories: Support AIDS History Archive

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https://givingtogether.ucsf.edu/fundraiser/2359886

Over the past three decades, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has played a vital role in documenting the AIDS epidemic.

We are seeking your help to maintain and grow the AIDS History Project (AHP) archive as a critical, one-of-a-kind public record of the institutions and individuals involved in containing and treating the HIV both locally, and worldwide.

Please help support the UCSF AIDS History Project. We are hoping you will donate today and help us raise $50,000 by 2/1/2020 – please take a moment to do it now.

Your generosity advances vital work to collect, preserve, and provide universal access to stories of the AIDS epidemic.

35 years have passed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and many of the original researchers, health care providers, and community activists who were on the front lines of defense against HIV have now begun to retire from public service. There is an urgent need to collect, preserve, and provide open access to their collections.

Your support will allow us to:

  • Catalog and digitize recently acquired collections, including, papers of Drs. Jay Levy and Steven G. Deeks, SF AIDS Foundation records
  • Record a new set of oral histories with clinicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech scientists, health care workers, activists, community members, patients, and their family members
  • Expand the AIDS History Project statewide scope, solicit and acquire material fro regional community health centers
  • Organize exhibits and public events to share materials and stories preserved in the archives

Read more and donate.

With gratitude,
UCSF Archives & Special Collections team

More than Meets the Eye: Restoring the Danz Collection

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Guest post by Tracy Power Objects Conservation and Lesley Bone

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology at UCSF.

Since 1963, the UCSF Archives & Special Collections holdings have included the historic Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens. The set, one of 13 believed to have been made, was originally intended as a teaching tool for use in medical schools. These blown orbs, some still retaining a long delicate stem, were made in Germany, in the 1880’s, by master glassblower, Amandus Muller. Each glass eyeball depicts, in minute detail, the various diseases and defects that can afflict the eye and is a unique masterpiece of the art of glass making. 

In June 2018 the collection was examined by Tracy Power and Lesley Bone to determine the nature and scope of condition problems that these objects.  Past treatments and current breakages were evaluated, the deterioration of the glass was examined, and current storage conditions were assessed.

While the majority of the glass eyeballs were in stable condition, there were ironically a couple that were themselves suffering from glass disease. This presents with a sticky surface; as a component of the glass leaches out of the surface due to an instability in the glass mix. These surfaces readily attract dust.

Of the previously repaired items, some were in stable condition, but most were in poor condition due to deterioration of the repair materials used and inferior skills of the person or people doing the repairs. One particularly peculiar repair was filled with bright red dental wax.

 The eyeballs were stored in their original compartmented box, with light damaged (faded), velvet-covered cavities for each specimen, and a hinged lid with a glass cover.  The box was still serviceable, but the cavities for the eyeballs had wads of old cotton wool, which was not suitable for the collection since the blown balls retained the thin tubular glass extensions that had been snapped from the rod when the ball was blown. These tended to snag on the cotton.

A treatment plan was agreed upon which would include upgrading the storage container, cleaning all of the glass eyeballs, and repairing the broken glass orbs.

Improved Housing

The eyeballs were removed sequentially for cleaning, and at that time the cavities in the display box were cleaned and new, improved supports were made.  The old cotton wool was replaced with new storage materials that will not be as likely to snag the glass tips.  Small pillows were made of polyester batting in Holytex fabric.  The glass pane in the box was cleaned with detergent and water.  Several discolored areas of paper on the box were toned with conservation stable watercolors and some lifting edges of paper were glued down.

Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens
Old cotton wool was removed and replaced by individually made pillows of archival materials.

Cleaning of the glass eyeballs

Each glass eyeball was carefully cleaned.  A detergent designed specifically for cleaning glass was used for this process.  Handling the eyeballs safely was a major concern and we ended up using foam tubes to make little doughnuts for the glass balls to sit in.  The foam was held in place with toothpicks, so their creation and adjustment was relatively quick. During the cleaning we identified some additional cracks in the glass eyeballs that hadn’t been obvious until they were wet up.  This step was very satisfying as the eyeballs went from dull and cloudy to glistening after cleaning.

Cleaning of the glass eyeballs
Cleaning the glass and the compartments in the box.

Repairing of Glass Eyeballs

Before the eyeballs could be repaired, those with unsightly or failing old repairs had to be undone.  The method varied depending on the types of repair materials previously used.  Several of the repairs had been done with red wax.  The wax remained soft and sticky making it messy and it did not closely resemble glass.  The wax material was removed by gently warming it.  Some of the other old adhesives had failed after becoming brittle.  The brittle material could be brushed from the surfaces, with special care taken to not scratch the glass.  Other old repair materials were removed with solvents.

Repairing the individual eyeballs was the most challenging part of the process, as they are thin and delicate.  Added to that, the high-grade epoxy that was designed for glass conservation can take several days to fully set.  While this can be advantageous, as it allows adjustment of pieces, it also means the fine shards have to be held in place for long periods of time while the resin sets. An advantage of this epoxy is that it is very thin and can be fed by capillary action into cracks.  That property was useful for many of the eyeballs. Also this adhesive has the added advantage of being far superior to commercially available epoxy resins in terms of long-term stability and greater light-stability, therefore it does not yellow like commercially available epoxies. 

Once the eyeballs were repaired, a few had areas where the fragments of the glass were still missing. Glass eyeballs that were incomplete were filled with tinted thermoplastic resin mixtures and details such as veins, were inpainted (inpainting is the process of restoring lost or deteriorated surface decoration or details on an artwork) with commercially ground pigments in acrylic resin.

The glass eyeballs were incredible to work on.   They were beautifully made, if often difficult to look at.  Only one of the eyeballs examined was failing due to unstable glass, or a poor match between the cream under layer and the colored surface glass.  The glass blower had incredible mastery in working with glass in addition to skill in depicting the defects and conditions.  We hope that after this conservation project the glass eyeballs continue to illustrate medical conditions and inspire awe for years to come.