Friday, February 13, 2015


Last night at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections in Thomas Cooper Library I attended the official opening of an exhibit I rather not have expected to ever be attempted here in this bastion of conservatism, South Carolina, but there it was, a nice collection of books, pamphlets, posters, magazines, ephemera and other materials relating to HIV/AIDS activism. Dr. Ed Maddon, who I have known mostly as a poet (first laureate of Columbia) and collector, gave the opening remarks for HIV/AIDS IN AMERICA: THE FIRST DECADE. I knew of him when I first began studying at the University of South Carolina, but only peripherally, when a small group of conservative history students were engaged in a bit of nastiness toward Ed, an episode I'd rather forget because of its ugliness. The first time I ever really chatted with him, well after having been out of academe, was when I sold him a small collection of sixties/seventies chapbooks from Dr. Bruccoli's collection at the annual book festival. Since then I have run into him a few times at readings. It seems so far in the past, but the outbreak of the disease colored my life, as it did so many, changing attitudes and behavior and taking away so many people, even some of my friends. It changed America, an perhaps even changed the way people thought about and related to populations that were usually left in the shadows, shunned. It is a nice collection (thank goodness it is archived and preserved as part of a larger collection held by the university) and worth perusing; I had the feeling that the curators purposely downplayed the more negative aspects of conservative hatred, and went with a more positive approach, highlighting memoirs, prevention activism, and the efforts of individuals and organizations to combat the disease as well as support the victims. I encourage people to visit the exhibit.

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