One of the world's largest collections of AIDS posters is available online marking the culmination of a multiyear project launched in 2011 during the 30th anniversary year of the identification of HIV/AIDS.
The posters were donated to the University's Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation by retired physician Dr. Edward C. Atwater, M.D., '50, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Atwater, who began collecting the posters in 1990, donated the artwork with the stipulation that it be digitized so the public could view the collection in its entirety.
"My hope is to show people the responses from various societies to a deadly disease. Looked at chronologically, the AIDS posters show how social, religious, civic, and public health agencies tailored their message to different groups," said Atwater, 87, who lives in Rochester, N.Y. The posters provide a visual history of the first three decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1981 to the present. Depending on their audience, creators of the posters used stereotypes, scare tactics, provocative language, imagery, and even humor to educate the public about the disease. Selections of the posters were previously on exhibit at colleges, high schools, public libraries, and museums such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
In addition to the now complete collection of posters, the site contains research conducted by University of Rochester students who have used the collections, an introduction to the collection by Alexander Brier Marr, a doctoral student in visual and cultural studies, and links to additional AIDS educational resources.