In the summer of 2019, the World AIDS Museum began a new project, “Until the Last Story is Told.” This project continues their on-going documentation of how people have experienced the HIV epidemic.
As its name implies, the “Until the Last Story is Told” project will continue indefinitely. SFGN spoke about this project with Dr. Réquel Lopes, AP, Executive Director of the World AIDS Museum and Educational Center.
This new museum project differs from their prior projects in two ways. First, anyone can tell their story of how they have lived with HIV or how HIV has affected them. Second, with new equipment, museum staff can tape people's stories away from the museum. Previously, only people who could come to the museum could provide their stories. This mobility will enable more people from more areas to participate.
This project relies on a technique of social history called “oral history.” In this type of history, individuals tell their memories of a shared experience, such as the HIV epidemic. Rather than focusing one individual, oral histories focus on many. Oral history can bring out the diverse and complex understandings of their shared experiences.
What happens in an oral history video
The museum will videotape a subject telling their story about HIV. Later, museum staff will transcribe that video tape. People can then search those transcribed statements for keywords. These keyword searches work like googling for a phrase of interest. This will help researchers, students, and writers learn more about the different ways people experience the epidemic. These videos average about 30 minutes. Some last up to one hour.
In an oral history video, the subject talks before a video camera about their experiences. No interviewer is asking questions. The subject determines what they want to share about their experience of HIV. Lopes said that the museum encourages “people to talk about something that’s important for them." The museum will work with people to help them “think about their approach before we shoot the video.”
Talking about one's experience of HIV can bring up strong emotions. Lopes said that museum staff will work with each subject “to make sure that they feel comfortable with the video.” Some people may prefer to first speak with someone who has already taped an oral history. The museum can make those arrangements.
Lopes linked this project to the tagline of the museum, “Document. Remember. Empower.” She said that that these oral histories would become part of the museum’s permanent collection to “document the story of HIV and AIDS, to help people remember where we have been in the struggle, and to empower people to speak out and fight stigma.”
Lopes felt that this project had a role in challenging stigma. She said “Seeing real people tell their stories, their experiences, is one of the most powerful ways that we can break down stigma."
Hearing how people experienced the epidemic differs from reading statistics and reports. It provides a "richer, more comprehensive understanding of where we have been, and where we are going.”
The World AIDS Museum and Educational Center is located at 1201 NE 26th Street #111, in Wilton Manors. Its hours are from noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. The museum also does periodic events. Those public events are listed on its website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.