Sunday, April 25, 2010

Defaced ACT UP 'Kissing Doesn't Kill'
Poster Donated to SF Library

(The section of the poster that was slashed with a marker.)

(Tim Wilson is presented with the poster, which was donated on April 15, in front of the entrance to the San Francisco Public Library's History Collection.)

Human see, human do. I've been looking lately at the collection of the late writer Randy Shilts' papers and other gay records at the main library at Civic Center Plaza, and was reminded of the importance to donate important artifacts to either libraries or gay historical societies. Thanks, Randy, for leaving your papers in a central, easy-to-access location. I recently followed the example of him and so many other gay people, and I gave a piece of our history to San Francisco's gay collection.

For a number of years, I had a damaged version of that famous activist poster, one that had been defaced not out of hate, but out of unrelated anger, from a local city-operated clinic. After spending time poring over homo-historical records and talking with the friendly and super-informed librarians, I asked if they would be interested in accepting the poster, and the answer was yes.

The library already has a clean version of the poster, along with many other materials from early ACT UP/San Francisco, but the library accepted the damaged version because it was so prominently on view in the Castro, at a public clinic doing its damnedest to keep people with AIDS alive and the negatives uninfected, for many years. The marring was not hate-driven, but still it shows just one more of the diverse reactions and attacks people and institutions have made against the image.

Many thanks to Tim Wilson of the library's History Center for his friendly assistance, helping me look at files, and for accepting a small gift, from the activist community and our health care partners at Health Center 1.

Excerpted from this week's BAR:

Longtime gay and AIDS activist Michael Petrelis last week donated a mounted, defaced ACT UP poster to the San Francisco Public Library.

The poster contains the phrase, "Kissing Doesn't Kill: Greed and Indifference Do" and features three couples kissing. The couples are same-sex and opposite-sex and "very diverse,"Petrelis said [...]

Petrelis said that for many years it was on display at the main entrance to Health Center 1 on 17th Street. A few years ago, however, he noticed it was missing and asked what happened. According to Petrelis, he was told that an angry client with apparent mental issues defaced the poster with a red marker. [...]

Petrelis retrieved the poster, preventing it from being thrown in the trash, and held on to it for a few years.

Tim Wilson, the processing archivist for the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the library, confirmed that Petrelis had donated the poster on April 15. Wilson said that it would go into the poster collection at the center.

Petrelis said he hoped that other people with historical items would consider donating them to the library or the GLBT Historical Society.

What historical objects or papers do you have in your closet or filing cabinet, or down in the basement? Ask your local gay historical org or ordinary historical society or public library if they'd be interested in your items. There is every reason to properly archive, study and access our homo history and the artifacts of our lives.

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