From the Smithsonian's Archives: Trading Cards About HIV and AIDS

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AC1146-0000061.jpg The National Museum of American History's Archives Center's collections document diverse aspects of the history and culture of the United States. The oral histories, ephemera, and popular culture materials housed here provide researchers an opportunity to learn how individuals and society are affected by -- and cope with -- the epidemic.

Trading cards are a popular form of entertainment, but are also used to educate a segment of the population that may not be reached through more traditional methods. AIDS Awareness Cards, a set of 110 trading cards designed for young adults, depict persons who died from AIDS or were involved in the fight against AIDS, as well as a variety of HIV- and AIDS-related topics and organizations. The reverse side of the card carries biographical information or information on the topic or organization depicted.

One of those personalities depicted is Ryan White, a young man with hemophilia. Born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1971, White caught HIV through contaminated blood products. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. He became a vocal and visible symbol of AIDS. Through his illness he became friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, among others. He died of AIDS in 1990. The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990 was named for him.

The reverse of his card reads, "He was taunted and ostracized at school and was finally expelled. Neighbors pelted the Whites' car, and a bullet was fired into their home. Fleeing Kokomo, the family moved to nearby Cicero, where they were welcomed, and Ryan attended school for the rest of his short life."

He was quoted as saying, "I've learned that God doesn't punish people. I've learned that God doesn't dislike homosexuals, like a lot of Christians think. AIDS isn't their fault, just like it isn't my fault God loves homosexuals as much as He loves everyone else."

This card is part of a previous exhibit, "Archiving the History of an Epidemic: HIV and AIDS, 1985-2009," that was displayed near our entrance on the first floor, west wing, of the National Museum of American History.

The Archives Center houses more than 1,300 study collections and is open to researchers daily, by appointment, except Friday. Please check our website for more information.

Image: Smithsonian Institution.


This post also appears on the Smithsonian Collections Blog, an Atlantic partner site.

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Franklin Robinson

Franklin A. Robinson Jr. is a specialist in the archives center at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

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