Word is out regarding a "nascent" effort being "discreetly" explored by the staff of the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. The New York Times reveals the early stages and aspirations of a permanent AIDS museum in San Francisco, which would be along the lines of more recent memorial museums like the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC, or the September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, institutions that are "extraordinarily successful" according to the Times.
“The story of AIDS is more than a disease,” AIDS Memorial Grove executive director John Cunningham told the Times. “The real underpinnings of that story are about humanity, social justice, human rights and what it means to be a citizen of the world. Somehow there needs to be a keeper of the story.”
What's happened so far is that the Grove has consultants, some who have made their mark by fundraising for museums. An internal memo states the museum would seek to be "architecturally significant... More than a museum or memorial, it will be a center of social justice and conscience and a platform for action."
The time could be right, the Times imagines: AIDS monuments like the New York City AIDS Memorial in Greenwich Village, dedicated just months ago, and a West Hollywood AIDS monument that begins construction soon, have gained momentum nationally. And, in the sense of documentation, the material is rich. “AIDS is one of the most documented crises in history,” Jason Bauman at the New York Public Library tells the Times. “There was a drive to document... They knew what they were doing was significant.”
As it stands now, the National AIDS Memorial Grove is the only AIDS-related monument to gain National Memorial status, which it received in 1996. The Grove was conceived in 1988, and according to a page on its website, the Grove's founders "envisioned a serene place where people would come alone or in groups to hold memorial services, to remember among the rhododendrons and redwoods. It was to be a place dedicated to all lives touched by AIDS." The board of directors for the grove has a 99-year renewable lease with the City of San Francisco.
On the Grove's eastern edge is the Circle of Friends, pictured above, where loved ones lost to the virus as well as those affected by the disease and its toll. While that list slowed as HIV treatments transformed a death sentence into an incurable life-long disease, new names are nonetheless still added to the circle. That central dais is even running out of room, meaning AIDS Memorial Grove staff plan to build a sidewalk of engraved bricks to allow more names to be added. This ongoing nature of the disease is one aspect complicating a museum dedicated to it. At a 2013 NY Public Library show "Remembering AIDS Activism," protestors objected to the idea of writing off the epidemic as ancient history, or even as a matter of the past. All told, AIDS has killed 39 million people and more than 36 million currently live with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region that's the hardest hit today.
Related: It's World AIDS Day, And The National AIDS Memorial Grove Has Just Run Out Of Room To Carve Names