Ed. note: The King County Archives was accorded the 2017 AKCHO Technology Award for its online exhibit, “Responding to AIDS: The Seattle King County Department of Public Health, 1982-1996.”
The King County Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to historical records of King County government. Through online exhibits, the Archives seeks to foster appreciation and understanding of King County’s ongoing history and of King County government’s role in the community, as well as to promote public use of its collection for research.
By 1996, over 3,000 people in King County had died of AIDS. Today, in 2017, it may be hard to recall or imagine the level of fear and controversy that surrounded AIDS as it emerged as a major public health crisis. Responding to AIDS: The Seattle King County Department of Public Health, 1982-1996 is an online exhibit that presents the history of the Seattle King County Department of Public Health’s innovative and community-oriented response to the of AIDS epidemic using archival documents, photographs, and graphics, along with excerpts from video-recorded oral history interviews. The exhibit and oral histories discuss the time period from the emergence of the disease in the United States to 1996, when effective treatment became widely available.
Video clips from ten oral history interviews with current and former Seattle-King County Department of Public Health employees – leadership and staff from the AIDS Prevention Project – are incorporated throughout the exhibit to provide context and individual perspectives and stories. These clips, along with archival records and images, comprise an exhibit that provides an engaging and visually appealing multi-media presentation. Designed to be digestible by a variety of online users, the exhibit seeks to recreate the feeling of being in a museum space.
Responding to AIDS touches on many issues that remain relevant today, such as privacy rights, sex education in schools, the challenge to local health agencies in reaching disadvantaged and minority populations, stigma and fear around emerging epidemics, and civil rights protections for sexual minorities.
Since the exhibit has gone live, staff at the King County Archives have received multiple inquiries from within and outside King County government seeking advice in developing similar presentations.