Guest Bloggers: Abby Fry, Mia Hodges, Hartlee Johnston & Erin Major, “Digging in the Davidson Archives: A Look at HIV and AIDS at Davidson”

Throughout this semester, we have been involved in an independent study class under the guidance of Dr. Wessner investigating the biological and social impacts of HIV and AIDS. We each entered this class with our own particular interests and experiences in this realm – Mia worked at the Mwandi Mission Hospital, Abby conducted research in Ghana on reproductive healthcare, Hartlee worked at an LGBTQ+ health nonprofit, and Erin worked at a harm reduction organization and needle exchange program. We were each able to bring our individual experiences to deepen our group’s discussion of the various scientific papers and books we read and movies we watched.

As the semester went on and we began to discuss what we wanted our final project for this class to look like, the topic of HIV on Davidson’s campus emerged. Though we each had knowledge of the AIDS Crisis both in the United States and abroad, none of us had ever heard much about the ways in which our campus was impacted by these events. We decided to expand the existing programming for World AIDS Day to encourage students to better understand the history of this infection both broadly and on Davidson’s campus, as well as to see that HIV is still an important and relevant issue. Our goal was to tie in several parts of campus for a series of exhibits and events that would be visible to our entire Davidson community.

Through the extensive and much appreciated help of the Archives and Special Collections staff, we were able to find pictures of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Johnston Gym (now the Union) and records of the group that brought the Quilt here in 1994, as well as photos from their trip to Washington D.C. to be a part of the showing of the Quilt on the National Mall. We explored how the LGBTQIA+ community has grown on campus and found the documentation of the formation of different groups such as F.L.A.G. (Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Q&A (Queers and Allies), and YANASH (You are Not a Stranger Here). Some of our favorite things to explore were the Davidsonian articles that documented the slow progression of the discussion surrounding HIV and AIDS on this campus juxtaposed next to articles about the regular goings-on of the school.

Glass exhibit cases filled with artifacts and articles about AIDS at Davidson

World AIDS Day exhibition

 

Additionally, we were shown Quilt squares made by Scotty Nichols, the former director of RLO, who made these pieces to honor Davidson students and staff who had passed away due to AIDS. To read about these students, see their pictures, and hear the ways in which Scotty honored them, was a poignant reminder that Davidson was not immune to the effects of the AIDS Crisis.

Many of these artifacts from the archives are currently on display in the Library, but many more will be shown during Common Hour (11am-noon) on Tuesday, November 27th and Thursday, November 29th in the Library Fishbowl. In addition, the documentary “The Last One” about the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be screened, and four blocks of the Quilt will be on display for that whole week (Nov. 26th – Dec. 2nd) in the Union Atrium featuring the squares of four Davidson students. On Friday, November 30th at 4:30pm, the Visual AIDS presentation will be held the Wall Atrium. Please join us for any and all of these events, as well as taking a look at the display cases in the library.

Poster listing World AIDS Day events

World AIDS Day Events 2018

We would also like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone in the library and across campus who have provided their expertise, time, and materials to this project!

Guest Blogger: Andrew Rippeon, Ph.D. Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing, “More Frankenstein”

Broadside with the silhouette of a human with cross hatches of green surrounded by quotes regarding monsters and Frankenstein

Broadside Celebrating the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Halloween 2018

It’s been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s story of a creature created in a laboratory.  In the cinematic adaptations, the creature is stitched together, composed of body parts taken from corpses and medical specimens (and a famously “abnormal” brain).  Given this collage-like nature of Frankenstein’s creation, it seemed fitting to mark both the bicentennial of Shelley’s publication and Halloween 2018 with an “exquisite corpse”-style letterpress print.  In the Surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse, multiple authors or artists contribute short fragments to a single composition, with the result being a collaboratively composed final work that often demonstrates striking, unexpected juxtapositions.    

In our practice of the exquisite corpse, volunteers from Professor Sample’s WRI-101 course (“Monsters”!) visited the new and developing Letterpress Lab in the Wall Center for a brief overview of typesetting and letterpress printing.  After an introduction to the anatomy of moveable type (including the face, foot, belly, shoulder, and beard of the individual pieces of type, known as “sorts”), and the basics of typesetting (upside-down, from left to right), students selected typefaces and then set short quotations they’d brought with them, drawn from their readings in all things monsterish.  Some had chosen extracts from novels, while others had more theoretical excerpts.  When typesetting was complete, the students’ individual quotations were then gathered together onto one of two mid-century Vandercook proof presses, and locked into place in the bed of the press.   

The following day, students returned to print their type on large-format sheets previously printed with an appropriate background: a monsterish, vaguely human silhouette emerging from a visually noisy background.  Perhaps appropriate to the occasion (a celebration of what is sometimes called the first work of science fiction), these background sheets were produced on the letterpress but by means of a decidedly twenty-first century technique known as “pressure printing,” and in this specific case enabled by the technology of the laser-cutter in the college makerspace Studio M.  Pressure printing is a little bit like stenciling, but rather than applying pigment onto a sheet through a stencil, the stencil itself is placed behind the sheet, and the pair are run through the letterpress.  Ink transfers unevenly from the press to the print—a “mistake” in traditional letterpress practices!—according to the presence or absence of the material behind the printed sheet.  In this case, a negative and then a positive stencil were used to create, respectively, the background field (silver) with a silhouette removed, and the foreground figure (variably inked) with the background removed.  Hand inking of the figure produced a stitch-like effect, which continued the monsterish and collage-oriented approach to the print.  In the short edition (limited to 40), no two prints are the same.