As some of you know, I’m in Amsterdam for a study abroad program focused on International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender. I’ll have the opportunity to visit many organizations and museums that have dedicated their spaces and their work to things like LGBT history, women’s health, and/or sexual education. I’m incredibly excited to be able to learn about these topics in a place that has the reputation of being one of the most liberal cities in the world. While it is a harsh reality that Amsterdam is actually no further ahead in human rights than the United States is, it’s wonderful to tour and learn from a city that has resources I would never find in Toledo, OH or even in Ithaca, NY.
Today, our group met with researchers at IHLIA, an archive for LGBT heritage that has set up shop on the sixth floor of Amsterdam’s public library. The IHLIA archivists showed us their databases and resources that we’ll be able to use later in the semester for our research projects.
IHLIA has regularly hosted exhibits based around specific LGBT issues, and the current exhibit is called Living By Numbers. It’s an homage to the new HIV/AIDS monument that was built on the river in Amsterdam (pictured below). The exhibit shows the history of HIV/AIDS through peoples’ personal stories and a collection of news clippings and advertisements from the past ~40 years. The monument itself is an abacus, something that has been in HIV/AIDS imagery for quite a while and that symbolizes how a diagnosis resulted in, and unfortunately still results in, living by numbers: how many times you have to go to the doctors, how many doses of medicine you need to take, how many days you’ve stayed alive.