This week we had a real treat in Edmonton in having Sarah Schulman from the ACTUP Oral History Project around for the week. ACTUP–the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power–was the leading activist organization in the US formed to fight on behalf of those with a then-mysterious “gay disease” in the early 1980s that came to be known as AIDS. The Oral History Project has been underway for over five years, and is centred on almost 100 video interviews, one with each living member of ACTUP, New York. The interviews, which run up to 4 hours, can be accessed via the OHP website. There you can view about 5 minutes of streaming video of the 70 or so interviews that have been posted there, and download FULL transcripts of all of these in pdf. You can also order full versions of individual interviews, or get the entire set, again by working through the ACTUP Oral History Project website. There is also a complete set of all of unedited tapes of the video interviews at both the NY Public Library (on 5th Ave and 42nd Street), and at the San Francisco Main Library.
Most of the interviews were done by Schulman, and they feature people from various backgrounds moved by the AIDS crisis–and its criminal neglect under the Reagan and Bush I governments–to join ACTUP. They talk about their experiences with and beyond ACTUP, and they make for interesting viewing. The project is run by Schulman and filmmaker Jim Hubbard, who has conducted a few of the interviews and done the camera work, amongst other things.
For a generation of students and youth, many of whom don’t recognize AIDS as a “gay disease” but think of it instead in terms of its current widespread devastation of populations in the developing world, this video archive is an invaluable resource, as it is for those who want to learn from the past in order to avoid its most grotesque errors in the future.