Alli and I were asked to speak this evening on behalf of the many volunteers who have been involved in what.s become affectionately known as 'the library project'.
Several years ago Kevin Schamburg, manager of the Community Education and Health Promotion Unit of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT and Daniel Coase who was the General Manager of the Council at the time took out a range of posters to display them at an event. They realised that hidden in the pile of posters was some important HIV educational messages that had become somewhat lost in the slick modern educational campaigns of recent years. It was because Kevin realised how much the education landscape had changed over the twenty odd years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that the project to document, appropriately store and where needed preserve the Collection of posters, t-shirts and other educational ephemera began.
From these early beginnings a real local partnership has grown. The support that the Canberra community has shown to the Council to ensure that this very significant Collection is looked after for years to come has at times been overwhelming. We feel very privileged to have been part of that partnership.
I began working with the Collection as a student undertaking an education research project. Now, if you wouldn.t mind indulging me, I would like to reflect on what I think are some of the key educational aspects of this collection.
As you will see when you look at the exhibition this evening many of the early education campaigns were used as a tool to empower the affected communities. Campaigns encouraged men who have sex with men to make healthy choices around condom use. Messages targeted at people who inject drugs taught people how to clean syringes and later when the infectiousness of the hepatitis C virus was discovered the campaigns changed to encourage people to use a new syringe each time.
Community based HIV campaigns have been so effective because they used culturally appropriate images, symbols and words, including eroticised messages. These educational tools were able to enhance individuals self esteem and ability to make healthy choices, at the same time as reinforcing a sense of community.
Due to the history of so many of these campaigns, and because the material in the Collection that has inspired some of the most recent, and award winning campaigns developed by the Council; I believe that it is essential that such a resource is kept within our community organisations. This will help ensure that this valuable resource continues to inspire future work.
I spoke before of a local partnership. To demonstrate just how extensive this partnership is, I.d like you to join with me in thanking a relative cast of thousands who have been involved.
I would like to extend a special thank you to Dianne who provided advice and assistance in writing the original grant application. It is Dianne.s patience and dedication that has made this work possible.
I would like to thank Elizabeth who was working as a Project Officer in the Community Education and Health Promotion Unit at that time. Elizabeth spent many a Friday afternoon with me cataloging posters by hand, together we managed to catalogue close to one thousand posters. Each time we thought we.d reached the end Kevin uncovered another cupboard or storage room or case with even more posters! At last count there is over 2,000 posters, and we.ll keep adding to that as future campaigns are developed.
The National Library of Australia through the Community Heritage Grant scheme have awarded the Council two grants in 2002 and 2003. The first allowed the AIDS Action Council to engage Mr John Thompson to conduct a Significance Assessment for the collection. John.s assessment raised our awareness about the historical, aesthetic, scientific, research, technical, social and spiritual significance of the Collection.
The second National Library Community Heritage Grant allowed the Council to engage Conservatrix to undertake a Preservation Needs Assessment for the posters and t-shirts. I.d like to thank both Sharon Towns and Deb Spoehr of Conservatrix for their personal commitment to the Collection, and for providing us with a 2005 workplan detailing a range of realistic steps we can take to better care for the posters and t-shirts.
The staff here at Canberra Museum and Gallery have been absolutely outstanding. Our thanks goes to Peter, Alison, Dale, Graeme, Em, Mark, Aaron and Lisa for providing an enormous amount of support, in-kind assistance and donating products to assist us in ensuring that the public can access the Collection in the future.
Thank you to the ACT Government for providing funding for the Council to purchase equipment to house the Collection appropriately.
I would also like to thank the HIV/AIDS Section of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing for donating a number of posters the Collection. Thank you also to those community members who have donated posters and t-shirts from their personal collections.
You may have noticed our very spectacular Carmen Miranda who has been the Council.s mascot over the last year or so. Carmen will be chaperoning the exhibition for the next couple of months. We would like to thank Ushi for being so patient in lending Carmen to us and Andy of Sixth Sense Media who.s concept Carmen was. Andy has also graphically designed and provided input into several other high profile AIDS Action Council Campaigns.
Thanks also to the Board of Management and Staff of the AIDS Action Council of the ACT for their ongoing commitment to the Library Project.
I.d like to acknowledge the volunteer contribution to this project. At the first workshop held in 2003, 30 volunteers spent the day cataloguing posters by hand and there have been more weekend and evening workshops since. Two more workshops that we plan for next year are a padded hanger making workshop for the t-shirts and a mylar encapsulation workshop to preserve some of the most important posters in the Collection. So we.ve taken note of who is here this evening and we.ll be calling on you in the new year!
Kevin, you didn.t think you.d get away without a thank you did you? This whole exhibition is a tribute to the amount of work that Kevin has put into the library project. From the beginning several years ago it was Kevin who realised that hidden away in various spots around Westlund House was the treasure trove of historical, cultural, social and emotional treasures that come together to form the Collection that you see just a part of here at this exhibition. But Kevin.s work didn.t end there, he has worked tirelessly to establish the local partnerships that you have heard about this evening ladies and gentlemen. Kevin has ensured that the Collection has the support of the Staff, Clients, Volunteers and Members of the Council and the local community, it is this support which will ensure that the Collection is treated with the significance it deserves and is added to in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, I.d like to ask you to put your hands together as a token of our appreciation to Kevin Schamburg for making this all happen.