Scope and arrangement
The ACT UP New York records contain administrative files; minutes; correspondence; action, demonstration, and zap records; financial records; chapter records; committee records; subject files; conference notes and programs; published and near-print material; ephemera, fliers, and handbills; photographs and slides; artifacts; posters and placards.
These records document a very active grassroots organization committed to focusing the world's attention on the AIDS crisis. Arranged in fifteen series, the first three series provide a basic overview of ACT UP that is expanded upon throughout the collection.
Strengths of this collection include its documentation of ACT UP's expertise at identifying, locating, and keeping abreast of medical and experimental treatments. Since this knowledge extended throughout the organization, documentation can be found in multiple series, including: Series VIII. Committees, particularly the Alternative and Holistic, Media, and Treatment and Data committees; and Series IX. Conferences. The organization also monitored society's attitudes toward and treatment of individuals with AIDS/HIV. It accomplished these tasks, in part, by collecting articles from medical literature and the popular press; publications and related material from pharmaceutical companies, federal, state, and local governments which can be found in Series X. Publications and near-print materials. While ACT UP sought to find a solution to the crisis, it remembered those individuals who succumbed to AIDS by maintaining a small obituary file, as well as other AIDS-related subject files, in Series VIII. Subjects.
One of the strengths of this collection is its documentation of the way in which ACT UP offered its members the opportunity to express ideas, innovations, and interests for the cause. As ACT UP member Jon Greenberg noted, the group, and its demonstrations in particular, offered empowerment to its members. This empowerment can be seen in the collection of impressive posters and placards in Series XIV which were created by members for demonstrations and actions. On a smaller creative scale, Series XI. Ephemera, fliers, and handbills contains handouts used to publicize meetings, provide information, and promote actions. The collection also offers insight into how ACT UP interacted with other organizations concerned with similar issues, documentation of which can be found throughout multiple series, including: Series III. Correspondence; Series XI. Ephemera, fliers, and handbills; and Series XIV. Posters and placards.
The majority of this collection has been microfilmed. Once a folder has been located in the container list below, use the microfilm guide to ascertain the order in which items appear on the microfilm reel. Items that were not filmed are noted at the box or folder level; entire series that were not filmed are noted in their series description.
The ACT UP New York records are arranged in fifteen series:
- 1988-1989, n.d.2 boxes
Series I. Administrative/Organizational history is arranged alphabetically and provides an overview of the operations of ACT UP. It contains the organization's administrative manual, administrative handbook, and basic information handbook (AIDS 101). ACT UP's Capsule History highlights important events in the history of the organization. By-laws and related material complete the series. See Series XV. Addenda for additional administrative materials.
- 1987-19944 boxes
Series II. Minutes is arranged chronologically and contains a combination of handwritten and typed notes documenting the organization's meetings. The minutes provide information about the earliest days of ACT UP, beginning in the late 1980s through its maturity in the 1990s. The documents focus on organizational procedures and provide information about issues of concern to their members. The minutes provide a chronology of pertinent issues, as well as document the fluctuation in their importance. Some basic issues of finances and fundraising are also covered in this series; see Series V. Financial records for more information. Chapter minutes are filed with their respective chapters; see Series VI. Chapters.
- 1987-1995, n.d.6 boxes
In Series III. Correspondence, general correspondence is arranged chronologically and the remaining material is arranged alphabetically. This series provides some overview of ACT UP's relationship with state and city governments, corporations, the public, and organizations with similar goals.
- 1987-1995, n.d.7 boxes
Series IV. Actions, demonstrations, and zaps, organized chronologically, dramatically illustrates the prolific events that ACT UP organized, participated in, and co-sponsored. ACT UP defined actions as planned public protests or demonstrations that targeted an individual or organization. Organized by a working group and approved in advance by the ACT UP floor, actions were characterized by a planning period, promotion, and a large turnout. On the other hand, zaps addressed immediate issues and usually had more specific targets. The targets were bombarded with correspondence, telephone calls, faxes, picketing, and/or invaded office space. This series documents the activities for which ACT UP is most famous and should be considered in concert with Series XI. Ephemera, fliers, and handbills, Series XIII. Artifacts, and Series XIV. Posters and placards.
- 1989-1994 [?], n.d.5 boxes
Series V. Financial records is arranged alphabetically; it consists of assorted financial records including bills, receipts, invoices, cancelled checks, and auction records. There are also some records for the Auction for ACT UP held on December 3, 1989 in New York City, co-chaired by David Hockney and Annie Leibovitz. See Series XV. Addenda for additional financial records.
- 1986-1993, n.d.4 boxes
Series VI. Chapters is arranged in two subseries: VI.A. United States, 1986-1993, n.d., and VI.B. International, n.d. It should be noted that although ACT UP New York was the founding chapter, it did not act as the organization's national headquarters; each chapter was autonomous. Materials in this series provide evidence of ACT UP's activities outside of New York. The bulk of the series focuses on chapters established in the United States. Of these, the Los Angeles chapter was the largest and most well documented. There is some information on how chapters adapted in locales more conservative than New York City. Outside of the continental United States, a chapter was established in Puerto Rico. International chapters documented here include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Cape Town, Europe, Köln, London, Melbourne, Milano, Montréal, Moscow, Paris, Sydney, and Vancouver.
- 1985-1995, n.d.45 boxes
Series VII. Committees is one of the largest series in the collection; it is arranged in three subseries: VII.A. General committees, 1985, 1987-1995, n.d.; VII.B. Insurance and Healthcare Access committee, 1988-1995, n.d.; and VII.C. Treatment and Data committee, 1986-1994, n.d.
This series contains correspondence, handouts, reports, and related material. The committees provided the framework to collate information and pursue specific concerns. Represented along with the committees are the working groups that were temporary in nature, occasionally evolving into permanent committees. Some committees and working groups are not represented in this series.
- 1982-1995, n.d.40 boxes
Series VIII. Subjects is arranged alphabetically and includes a wide range of subjects related to AIDS/HIV. Subject headings are primarily those used by ACT UP. The materials in this series overlap with other series, especially the Committee series. The subjects themselves are not exclusive and overlap within this series and others. The bulk consists of newspaper articles along with some journal reports and broadsides. Subjects include, but are not limited to: AIDS education programs, confidentiality, and the impact of AIDS in Europe.
- 1983-199420 boxes
Series IX. Conferences is arranged alphabetically by conference title. The series contains documentation of some of the conferences attended by ACT UP representatives. Included are addresses, correspondence, bulletins and newsletters, handouts, notes, press clippings, programs and abstracts, reports, and serials.
The most documented conferences are the international conferences that enabled activists, physicians, medical researchers, public health officials, pharmaceutical corporations, and interested parties to meet and exchange ideas about the latest developments in AIDS/HIV research, social concerns, and related issues. The international conferences represented are the third through tenth International Conference on AIDS, as well as the seventh and eighth International Conference on AIDS in Africa/African Conference on Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The remainder of this series contains a representative sample of other conferences. See Series XV. Addenda for additional conference materials.
- 1969, 1982-1995, n.d.58 boxes
Series X. Published and near-print material is arranged in four subseries: X.A. Media, 1969, 1983-1995, n.d.; X.B. Journal articles, 1986-1989, n.d.; X.C. Near-print materials and assorted publications, 1982-1995, n.d.; and X.D. Newsletters and serials, 1982-1995, n.d. See Series XV. Addenda for additional materials.
- 1988-1993, n.d.10 boxes
Series XI. Ephemera, fliers, and handbills is arranged in three subseries: XI.A. ACT UP, 1988-1992, n.d.; XI.B. Other organizations, 1991-1992, n.d.; and XI.C. Miscellaneous material, 1989, 1993, n.d. See Series XV. Addenda for additional materials.
- 1987-1989, n.d.1 box
Series XII. contains photographs and slides of ACT UP New York members at two unidentified conferences, as well as photographs of the organization's first die-in, first kiss-in, and the City Hall action. Photographs and slides were not microfilmed.
- circa 1987-1990, 1992, circa 1994, 1997, n.d.9 boxes
Series XIII. Artifacts consists of buttons and pins, cloth items, masks and signs, paper cut-outs, stickers, and miscellaneous items including condoms, a flag, an oxygen mask, a pill bottle, a ping pong ball, and related items. The artifacts were made by ACT UP for demonstration purposes. The materials in this series were not microfilmed.
- 1986, circa 1988-circa 1995, 1997, n.d.13 oversize boxes 4 oversize folders 4 tubes 1 oversize item
Series XIV. Posters and placards is arranged in two subseries: XIV.A. Posters, 1986, circa 1988-circa 1995, n.d., and XIV.B. Placards, circa 1992-circa 1993, circa 1995, n.d. This series contains graphics used by ACT UP at demonstrations and events. Highly effective at using graphics to get across their point of view, ACT UP's posters and placards are colorful and dramatic. To understand the organization's varying graphic style dependent on member creativity and effort, the following series should also be viewed: Series XIII. Artifacts and Series XI. Ephemera, fliers, and handbills. The materials in this series have not been microfilmed; however, they are reproduced in the NYPL Digital Gallery and individual image ID numbers are provided: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchresult.cfm?parent_id=1060819&word=.
- 1985-1997, n.d.10 boxes
Series XV. Addenda contains additional material not listed in the original finding aid. It consists of administrative files, chapter information, conference materials, correspondence, demonstration ephemera, financial records, medical glossaries and fact sheets, periodicals, press clippings, press releases, and miscellany. The "Miscellaneous" folders include agendas, charts and notes, contact and phone lists, correspondence, drafts of letters and reports, fact sheets, financial records, handouts, journal articles, meeting announcements and fliers, merchandise order forms, notes, press clippings, press releases, and reports. This series has not been microfilmed.