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Date updated: 26/08/2022

Preserving the archives of HIV/AIDS: care and testimony

In May 2020 London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) was awarded a substantial grant by the Wellcome Trust, through its Research Resources in Medical History scheme, for a project entitled Positive history: preserving the archives of HIV/AIDS: care and testimony.

The aim of the project is to make accessible for research three recently acquired archive collections held by LMA which together illuminate two important threads of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and its aftermath: pioneering medical treatment, care and support; and lived experience of not only those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, but their carers, partners, relatives and friends. They comprise: the Mildmay Hospital archive including 4000 patient case files; 103 interviews of people with AIDS, their families, partners and carers, filmed by the National HIV Story Trust; and the archive of peer-led support charity Positively UK (formerly Positively Women). The key outcomes will be: freely available online catalogues to item level of all three archives; a research database of key information extracted from the Mildmay Hospital case files, and full digital access to the 150 hours of filmed interviews supported by time-coded summaries, transcriptions and captioning. The project will be undertaken over eighteen months.

Chris Sandford being interviewed
Chris Sandford interview

The archives, and the areas they inform such as the history of sexuality, science and medicine, as well as social and cultural change, and the methodologies used to make them discoverable, will be promoted through a conference, two professional skill-sharing events and two film-screenings, building on existing demonstrable interest in these archives.

"All too often, people at the heart of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were stigmatised, isolated and ignored, so the Wellcome Trust’s generous support of this project is crucial in ensuring that their lives will be remembered and their voices heard. Not only will these valuable archives form a central part of the history of London and Londoners preserved and made available at LMA, they will also provide a fuller picture of a period of profound societal challenge and change."

Geoff Pick, former Director of LMA (May 2020)

Following a delay owing to the pandemic, the project finally got underway in September 2021 with the appointment of the first project archivist Chris Olver who will be cataloguing the oral histories filmed by the National HIV Story Trust. A second project archivist be appointed in 2022 to catalogue the archives of Mildmay Hospital and the charity Positively UK (formerly Positively Women).

"The NHST was formed to preserve the direct experiences of people who were affected by the AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s, and to make them readily accessible to people of our present generations. The Welcome Trust's support makes this a reality through the excellence of the LMA and will enshrine this period with a gravity that it deserves and ensure that this important testimony is never forgotten."

Paul Coleman, Trustee and Co-Founder of the National HIV Story Trust (NHST), which filmed and deposited the interviews
Logo of the National HIV Story Trust - LMA's partner in the Positive History Project
Logo of the National HIV Story Trust - LMA's partner in the Positive History Project
Find out more about the project on YouTube