UCSF Archives and Special Collections acquires and makes available the papers of Dr. Michael S. Gottlieb, pioneer HIV/AIDS researcher and clinician

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By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accesioning Archivist

June 5, 1981 is widely known as the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States because it was the day that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the appearance of a cluster of diseases that would later come to be known as AIDS (Acquired Immune Difficiency Syndrome). The report, titled “Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles,” was authored by five UCLA doctors: MS Gottlieb, MD, HM Schanker, MD, PT Fan, MD, A Saxon, MD, JD Weisman, DO, of the Division of Clinical Immunology-Allergy at the UCLA Medical Center. The article reports, “In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.”[1] The primary author of this report, Doctor Michael S. Gottlieb – then 33 years old – made history as the person who discovered AIDS.  UCSF Archives & Special Collections is pleased to house Dr. Gottlieb’s archives, which are now processed and available for the first time. 

Photo of Dr. Michael Gottlieb by Elizabeth Nathane, originally published in the Los Angeles Blade

A record of his professional life and accomplishments, as well as the many honors and awards he received over the course of his career, the Michael S. Gottlieb papers contain published papers by Gottlieb and many others on AIDS-related topics. They also include information on various AIDS drug treatment studies (including AZT), professional and personal correspondence, and information about various talks and events attended by Gottlieb during the 1980s – a busy decade for him. They also document his prodigious philanthropic activities and AIDS advocacy.

Gottlieb figures prominently in this UCSF-generated timeline of the AIDS epidemic. The timeline, which begins with the 1981 MMWR report, notes that, in 1985, Rock Hudson – star of classic Hollywood films like Giant, All That Heaven Allows, and Written on the Wind – announced that he had AIDS and later died, becoming “the first major celebrity to succumb to the disease.”[1] Later that same year, the timeline reports, “The American Foundation for AIDS Research is founded with the help of movie star Elizabeth Taylor.” Gottlieb, who served as Rock Hudson’s physician from the time of his AIDS diagnosis to his death from the disease, was also one of the founding chairs of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, along with medical researcher Mathilde Krim and Taylor, who was a close friend of Hudson’s and his costar in Giant. The Foundation was established with a $250,000 gift from Hudson’s estate.  The Gottlieb papers also contain a fascinating trove of letters, which he dubbed “Crazy letters,” that he received after becoming publicly associated with Hudson in newspapers and the press. The letters indicate a fascination with the disease, which was still very new and widely misunderstood by the world at large.

If you’re interested in checking out the Michael S. Gottlieb papers, you can consult the finding aid or the library catalog record for the collection. The papers were a gift from Michael Gottlieb.


[1]Center for Disease Control. (1981, June 5). Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/june_5.htm

[2] Cisneros, Lisa. (2021, June 4). 40 Years of AIDS: A Timeline of the Epidemic. UCSF News. https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2021/06/420686/40-years-aids-timeline-epidemic


UCSF Receives NNLM PSR Subaward: “The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records”

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This Fall the UCSF Archives & Special Collections received a $138,370 subaward from the  Network of the National Library of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, for a project titled The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Records.

Black-and-white poster of on African American man reaching for another; Brothers offers services for African American gay/bisexual men and transgender people. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 22.
Black-and-white poster of on African American man reaching for another; Brothers offers services for African American gay/bisexual men and transgender people. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 22.

UCSF’s project supports a priority area for NLM and NIH by digitizing approximately 45,000 pages from 15 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area with the objective of making them widely accessible to the public. This project will chronicle the experience and struggles of communities of color and other marginalized communities during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

This project will make publicly accessible experiences of communities that are “absent or excluded from the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States” [Jennifer Brier,  The Oral History Review, Volume 45, Issue 1]. Its goal is to include the voices of underrepresented and marginalized groups in the historical record and increase public impact of these archival collections. These collections cover diverse issues communities are faced with: poverty, racial and socio-economic segregation, health care policy inequalities, public health and sexual education and prevention, disparities in the HIV response, the impact of HIV on migrant communities, and the intersection of the criminal justice system and HIV.

It will build on the success and expand the UCSF’s AIDS history digital collection that was developed with the assistance from the Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017-2019 and resulted in digitization of 160,197 pages from 35 archival collections from the three collaborating institutions: UCSF, San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society (GLBT HS).

Poster for AIDS Awareness week; San Francisco Community College district; San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1986, artist: T.P. Ranger. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 23.
Poster for AIDS Awareness week; San Francisco Community College district; San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 1986, artist: T.P. Ranger. UCSF AIDS History Project Ephemera Collection, MSS 2000-31, box 7, folder 9, item 23.

The materials that will be digitized range from hand handwritten correspondence and notebooks to typed and printed reports and agency records. Photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, and posters will also be digitized. They will be added to a growing digital collection documenting the AIDS crisis established by UCSF on the California Digital Library platform, Calisphere and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) becoming publicly accessible around the world.  The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. All materials selected to be digitized will be carefully examined for privacy concerns and the archivists will consult with an existing Advisory Board.

UCSF plans to partner with NLM’s History of Medicine Division and DPLA to create a collaborative AIDS history primary source set on the Digital Public Library of America in order to disseminate the project results and enable their educational use. UCSF will also promote the availability of this resource to organizations in the San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA areas. This project is led by Polina Ilieva and Edith Escobedo serves as a project archivist.

Digitization-on-Demand

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Blog post was written in collaboration with Jazmin Dew.

When the UCSF Library closed back in March, the Archives team had to change its projects to adjust working from home. One of the projects that we were able to work on while sheltering in place is the digitization-on-demand project. This project consisted of describing and publishing digital items on Calisphere. We hoped that by working on this project we would help the public have more access to our collections remotely while the library is still closed. The digitization-on-demand project has let us create new collections and also expand existing collections. We are excited to announce that approximately 710 digital items from various collections have been publish on Calisphere. Some of these include:

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

San Francisco AIDS Foundation is an organization founded in 1982 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care. Many of the new items digitized for this collection include photographs, letters, and flyers.

MSS 94-60, San Francisco AIDS Foundation Records

UCSF School of Nursing

The UCSF School of Nursing collection includes photographs, correspondence, and reports. One of the items that we were able to digitize is the 50th anniversary booklet “Fifty Years A Great Beginning”. The booklet celebrates the progress of the UCSF School of Nursing and has some great photographs from the past.

AR 87-34, UCSF School of Nursing records

Laurie Garrett Papers 

Laurie Garret was a public health and policy advocate, research, and Peabody, Polk, and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist, writing about global health system global health systems, bioterrorism, and chronic and infectious diseases. The new materials added to the Laurie Garrett Papers collection detail Brazil’s national response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

MSS 2013-03, Laurie Garrett papers

Nancy Stoller Papers

Nancy Stoller was a researcher, writer, and political activist. She wrote about the AIDS epidemic and healthcare equality under the pen name Nancy Shaw. Stoller’s two most prominent works were Lessons from the Damned: Queers, Whores, and Junkies Respond to AIDS and Women Resting AIDS: Feminist Strategies of Empowerment. Two interesting essays added to the Nancy Stoller Papers collection discuss how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected the Asian and Pacific Islander community, including the impact of the Asian/Pacific AIDS Coalition (A/PAC).

MSS 2000-06, Nancy Stoller papers

Robert K. Bolan Papers 

Robert K. Bolan was a community doctor, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), Center of Disease Control (CDC) consultant, and active participant of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR) and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGST). The new materials added to the Robert K. Bolan collection include multiple articles by the NCGSTD and how they informed the GLBTQ community and others about the AIDS epidemic. 

MSS 97-03, Robert K. Bolan papers

To explore more new material, check out these collections on Calisphere:  

David Powers Photograph collection

UCSF Black Caucus Records

School of Medicine, Office of the Dean records

Eric L. Berne Collections

Jerome Motto Papers

If you are interested in exploring more of our digital collections please visit us on Calisphere.