Call for Proposals: Memory Lives On: Documenting the HIV/AIDS Epidemic


AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell making a peace sign, wearing University of California San Francisco School of Nursing t-shirt.

Memory Lives On: Documenting the HIV/AIDS Epidemic is an interdisciplinary symposium exploring and reflecting on topics related to archives and the practice of documenting the stories of HIV/AIDS. 


The task of documenting the history of HIV/AIDS and thinking about the present and future of the epidemic is daunting. The enormity and complexity of the stories and perspectives on the disease, which has affected so many millions of patients and families around the world, present significant challenges that demand continual reexamination. Questions of “what do we collect and from where” and “whose stories do we know best.”  The ways in which we handle documentary evidence and produce knowledge from that evidence has profound effects on a huge range of social, economic and health outcomes. In examining and reflecting on our knowledge of the history of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic and its future, we hope to improve our understanding of the true effects of the disease, and what it can teach us about future epidemics.

The program committee invites submissions for presentations addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic from the wide-ranging perspectives of historians, archivists and librarians, artists, journalists, activists and community groups, scientific researchers, health care providers, and people living with HIV. We invite proposals from individuals with diverse experience and expertise on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in scholarship, research and advocacy. Proposals will be considered in a variety of forms including paper presentations, panel discussions and posters.

The Symposium will take place in Byers Auditorium in Genentech Hall at the UCSF Mission Bay Campus in San Francisco, October 4th and 5th 2019.  The program will be an afternoon session and evening reception the first day, followed by a full day of presentations the second.

The Program Committee has identified the following themes to consider when developing your proposal, though we encourage creativity and experimentation in exploring themes, partnerships, and narrative ideas. 

  • Documenting the epidemic: Gaps, silences and unheard voices
  • Creating an interdisciplinary narrative of an epidemic
  • Silent no more: Community, caretaker and patient stories 
  • The San Francisco Bay Area’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic 
  • Biomedical story: From mystery disease to cure 
  • From local to global: Learning from AIDS to address future epidemics

The Program Committee welcomes proposals for individual papers, panel discussion and posters. Individual papers with a similar focus will be assembled into a single session by the program committee. Usually 3-4 papers are included in a session.
To allow adequate time for questions and discussion,  panels should be limited to four participants in addition to a chair/facilitator.
Please include the following in your complete proposal

  • Session title if submitting a full panel proposal (of no more than 20 words)
  • Session abstract if submitting a full panel proposal (up to 500 words)
  • Short session abstract for the program if submitting a full panel proposal (up to 50 words)
  • Paper or poster or presentation titles (if any), and names of corresponding presenters
  •  Biographical paragraph for each presenter
  •  E-mail address for each participant
  •  Affiliation, city, state, and country for each participant
  •  Social media handles or web addresses for each participant (optional)
  •  Audiovisual needs
  • Special accommodation needs

The deadline for submissions is June 3. We will notify presenters if their proposal has been accepted by July 22. 


Memory Lives On Program Committee

Victoria Harden, Ph.D., Director (retired) of the Office of NIH History


Monica Green, Ph.D.,  Professor of History, Arizona State University

Richard  McKay, DPhil,  Director of Studies for HPS at Magdalene College

Barbara A. Koenig, Professor of Medical Anthropology & Bioethics in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Institute for Health & Aging and Head of UCSF Bioethics Program

Jay Levy, MD, Professor UCSF School of Medicine

Eric Jost, Digital Marketing Manager, SF AIDS Foundation

Jon Cohen, Staff writer for Science Magazine

Mark Harrington, Executive Director, Treatment Action Group

William Schupbach, Wellcome Library 

Jason Baumann, Susan and Douglas Dillon Assistant Director for Collection Development and Coordinator of Humanities and LGBT Collections

Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives & Special Collections, UCSF Library


Submit a proposal: http://tiny.ucsf.edu/A2nohy

For any inquiries contact David Krah david.krah@ucsf.edu 

More information about the UCSF AIDS History Project: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/archives/aids/

A (very) brief Report back from Society of American Archivists

It’s been a whirlwind last couple of weeks for me as I bounced from conference to conference, but as I settle back in it’s been exciting to collect my thoughts on what I’ve learned. And while it’s still fresh in my memory, this is a brief report back from the largest conference I attended — the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) which was held last week in impossibly-quaint Portland, OR.

Being the digital archivist, I mostly spent my time in sessions focused on processing, preserving, and providing access to digital materials, in all the different forms that can take. One of the most fruitful of these was hosted by colleagues from UCLA, UCB, Stanford’s Hoover Institute, Cornell, and Emory, and was entitled “What we talk about when we talk about processing born-digital.” This session reported on an effort to establish shared definitions for what it means to process born-digital archival collections. Because this field is so new, what is considered “processing” a collection at one institution might be a totally different set of tasks from that performed at another. To address this, the group is attempting to identify which steps are essential or recommended, and assign different processing levels based on these frameworks.

To attempt to break all these steps out in a clear way is an immense amount of work, so I’m incredibly excited that my colleagues have begun to take on this huge task. It will help us all out in a massive way.

UCSF was not without good representation, as our own Polina Ilieva moderated several events — one that was a meeting of the section on Science, Technology, and Health Care archives, and one that was a panel discussion on Collecting and Preserving contemporary science in institutional archives.

Two people in front of a power-point presentation at a meeting of the Science, Technology, and Health Care Section of the Society of American Archivists.

A very poor photo of Polina Ilieva taking over as Senior Co-Chair of the Science, Technology, and Health Care Section of the Society of American Archivists

Finally, some of my most interesting food for thought came from a panel on archival responses to climate change. The panel covered everything from Native Hawaiian community preservation of historic material endangered by sea level-rise, to projects acquiring better data to map which archival repositories are likely to be most affected by a changing climate. Especially pertinent for my work was a presentation urging us as digital archivists to think more explicitly about what kinds of energy use we are engaging through our different preservation practices. Simply put: current digital preservation practices rely on cheap data storage, and cheap data storage relies upon energy from fossil fuels. So where can we start to change that?

More updates soon as we start to engage with all these thoughts more directly at UCSF.