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Oral history interview with Patrick Moore, 2017 April 15

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 57 pages.

An interview with Patrick Moore, conducted 2017 April 15, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Moore's office in the the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Moore speaks of his childhood in Cherokee, Iowa and rural Canada; the personal influence of his artistic grandmother; studying theater directing at Carnegie Mellon University; Pittsburgh's distinctive gay community; moving to New York in 1985; becoming serious about visual art through his employment at The Kitchen; his involvement with ACT UP's public demonstrations; working as The Kitchen's marketing director; caring for his first true love, who died of AIDS; struggling with alcoholism and addiction during the AIDS crisis; splitting time between New York and Los Angeles; working as a donation solicitor for Art Against AIDS and ACT UP's Auction for Action; ACT UP's money-related infighting; developing the Estate Project and Future Safe; his writing projects; moving to Los Angeles and becoming sober in 1995; art's role in communicating experience of the AIDS crisis to future generations; paying special attention to the preservation of film work; the politics of identifying artists' deaths as AIDS-related; Organizing the Geldzahler Portfolio; the untreated grief of those who lived through the AIDS crisis; his career and current work at the Warhol Museum; his renewed hope for an intergenerational dialogue about the AIDS crisis; historical work as activism; and his continued fascination with the New York that he first encountered in the 1980s. Moore also recalls Robert Wilson, Maria Maggenti, Donald Moffett, Marlene McCarthy, Avram Finkelstein, Karen Finley. John Jesurun, Annie Sprinkle, Ron Athey, Joe Coleman, Diamanda Galas, Eileen Myles, Ann Philbin, Philip Yenawine, Frank Moore, Randy Bourscheidt, Anne Livet, Robert Gober, Tony Feher, Jeff Griglak, Leigh Raines, Robert Ferber, Firelei Baez, Mimi Bowling, Jim Hubbard, Sarah Schulman, Vincent McGee, Barney Rosset, Assotto Saint, Kevin Oldham, Tory Dent, Catherine Opie, Raj Roy.

Oral history interview with Sur Rodney (Sur), 2016 July 12 and 15

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 2 sound files (5 hr., 50 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 83 pages

An interview with Sur Rodney (Sur) conducted 2016 July 12 and 15, by Theodore Kerr, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Rodney's studio in New York, New York.

Sur speaks of his cosmopolitan upbringing in Montreal; attending the Montreal Museum School of Art and Design; adopting a "freak" aesthetic; moving to New York in 1976; the confluence of his Canadian, gay, and black identities; helping to establish Gracie Mansion Gallery; contemporary erasure of the impact of AIDS and queerness on the 1980s East Village; caring for HIV-positive friends in the 1980s and 90s; the impact of AIDS on intergenerational exchange in the gay community; the ostracizing of HIV-positive artists in the art world; working to preserve HIV-positive artists's archives before their deaths; developing a more explicit black consciousness in the mid-1990s; public silences around issues of sexuality and drug use in the art world; his body of work with Visual AIDS; the impact of effective medication for AIDS on the art world; his observations on contemporary intersections of AIDS and the art world; and his vision for a world when AIDS is over. Sur also recalls J.A. Holm, Fred Wilson, Lyle Ashton Harris, Lorraine O'Grady, David Hammons, Gregg Bordowitz, Al Hansen, Buster Cleveland, Tim Greathouse, Nicolas Moufarrege, Jeffrey Deitch, Michael McDonough, Yasmin Ramirez, Keith Davis, Mysoon Rizk, Andreas Senser, David Wojnarowicz, Gil Rankin, Frank Moore, Nick Debs, AA Bronson, Alex Greenfield, and Hunter Reynolds.

Oral history interview with Joey Terrill, 2017 December 30-31

Archives of American Art
Audio: 9 sound files (6 hr.,13 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 92 pages.

An interview with Joey Terrill conducted 2017 December 30 and 31, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Terrill's home and studio in Los Angeles, California.

Terrill speaks of his family and upbringing in Los Angeles; early exposure to '60s politics and working-class Chicano activism; early exposure to art-making; early understanding and experience of his queerness; attending Cathedral High School and Immaculate Heart College; moving to New York in 1980; making and distributing the first batch of Maricón and Malflora T-shirts; contemporary appreciation and revitalization of his work; the genesis, production, distribution, reissue, and legacy of Homeboy Beautiful; his seroconversion in 1980; exhibiting his Chicanos Invade New York series in 1980; memories of the early AIDS crisis and ensuing activism; testing HIV-positive in 1989, and subsequent developments in his art; his relationships with Mundo Meza, Jack Vargas, Ray Navarro, Gerardo Velazquez, Alice Armendariz, Teddy Sandoval, Carlos Almaraz, and Harry Gamboa, Jr; contributing an essay to the Art AIDS America catalogue; his still life painting practice; his 2013 retrospective at ONE Archives; ideas for an new anniversary issue of Homeboy Beautiful; his current and ongoing AIDS activism with AIDS Healthcare Foundation; and his hopes for future assessments of his legacy. Terrill also recalls Carlton Dinnall, Patssi Valdez, Jim Aguilar, Gronk, Roberto Legorreta, Willie Herrón, Terry Saunders, Richard Crawford, Sister Corita Kent, Joey Arias, Steven Fregoso, Victor Durazo, Richard T. Rodriguez, David Frantz, Ondine Chavoya, Paul Polubinskas, Daniel Ramirez, Efren Valadez, Carole Caroompas, Skot Armstrong, Greg Poe, Rea Tajiri, Richard Gildart, John Henninger, Craig Brown, Chris Brownlie, Richard Starr, Paul Coleman, Steven Muñoz, Roger Horwitz, Dr. Eugene Rolgolsky, Jef Huereque, Beto Araiza, Miguel Angel Reyes, Guillermo Hernandez, Monica Palacios, Robert Gil de Montes, Eddie Dominguez, Simon Doonan, Jonathan Katz, Rob Hernandez, Dan Guerrero, Diane Gamboa, and others.

Oral history interview with Julie Tolentino, 2018 April 11-12

Archives of American Art
Audio: 7 sound files (6 hr., 14 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 79 pages.

An interview with Julie Tolentino conducted 2018 April 11 and 12, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at a friend's apartment in the East Village, New York.

Tolentino speaks of her childhood in San Francisco; her family dynamics, including caring for her developmentally disabled sister; Harvey Milk's assassination; early exposure to dance and art-making; early exposure to queer nightlife; briefly pursuing dance training in Los Angeles after high school; soon thereafter moving to New York; volunteering for the National Gay and Lesbian Suicide Hotline; her involvement with ACT UP; experiences of AIDS-related grief; her close friendships during this time; continuing her dance education and performance practice in the late '80s and '90s; founding and operating the Clit Club; changes in the landscape of queerness during the '90s; managing the performance companies of David Roussève and Ron Athey; the beginning of her solo practice with Mestiza-Que Ojos Bonitos Tienes; the installation Marks of My Civilization; the beginning of ART+; her role in Madonna's book Sex; her reflections on the visibility of her body; developing the Lesbian AIDS Project's Safer Sex Handbook; her performance works For You, Sky Remains the Same, and Honey; her video work evidence; and her awareness of the past's construction and meaning in the present. Tolentino also recalls Page Hodel, Doug McDowell, Maxine Wolfe, Ann Northrup, David Robinson, Ray Navarro, Aldo Hernandez, Anthony Ledesma, Lola Flash, Catherine Gund, Zoe Leonard, Robert Garcia, Jocelyn Taylor, Martina Yamin, Cookie Mueller, Diamanda Galas, D.M. Machuca, Pigpen, John Lovett, Alessandro Codagnone, John Killacky, Lia Gangitano, Alistair Fate, Steven Meisel, Cythia Madansky, Kim Christensen, Kate Clinton, Lori Seid, Ori Flomin, Abigail Severance, and others.

Oral history interview with Marguerite Van Cook, 2016 September 19-21

Archives of American Art
5 sound files (5 hrs., 55 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 87 pages.

An interview with Marguerite Van Cook, conducted 2016 September 19 and 21, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at the Visual AIDS office in New York, New York.

Interview with Marguerite Van Cook, conducted by Alex Fialho for the Archives of American Art, at the Visual AIDS office in New York, New York on September 19 and 21, 2016. Van Cook speaks of her childhood in Portsmouth, England and summers in France; early exposure to the arts; early sexual experiences; moving to Newcastle and forming the punk band The Innocents; moving to New York with the band; curating shows and installations and starting Ground Zero Gallery with her husband James Romberger; the devastation of the AIDS crisis on her East Village social milieu; advocating for HIV-positive homeless people; her body of visual and audiovisual artwork; raising her child during the AIDS crisis; being diagnosed, along with with Romberger, with meningitis and HIV in the mid-1990s; her current work as a doctoral candidate in French literature; her body of work as a writer; her experience of long-term HIV survivorship; and her reflections on living with HIV as a woman. Van Cook also recalls Edward Brennan, Martin Botha, Sarah Hall, Jamie Reid, Russ Meyer, Fiona Barry, Greg Van Cook, Martin Wong, Karen Finley, David Wojnarowicz, Michael Von Ofak, Luis Frangella, Keiko Bonk, Walter Robinson, Grace Borgenicht, Leonard Abrams, and others.

Oral history interview with James Wentzy, 2017 January 23-March 31

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 15 sound files (5 hr., 13 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 164 pages

An interview with James Wentzy, conducted 2017 January 23-March 31, by Cynthia Carr, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Wentzy's home and studio in New York, New York.

Wentzy speaks of his childhood in South Dakota; studying filmmaking at Southern Illinois University; moving to New York and shooting commercial films in the late 1970s; working and homesteading in the photography studio of James Dee; the beginning of the AIDS crisis; being diagnosed with HIV in 1990; his participation in and extensive documentation of ACT UP meetings, actions, and demonstrations; his place in the genealogy of AIDS activism; and his body of film and television work. Wentzy also recalls Darrel Ellis, Alanna Heiss, Arch Brown, James Dee, Robert Farber, Ho Tam, John Schnabel, Patrick Moore, Lou Maletta, Tony Arena, Vincent Satinire, David Buckingham, Jean Carlomusto, and others.

Oral history interview with AA Bronson, 2017 March 3, 5, and 6

Archives of American Art
13 sound files (9 hrs., 37 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 201 pages.

An interview with AA Bronson conducted 2017 March 3, 5, and 6, by Theodore Kerr, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Bronson's home and studio, in Berlin, Germany.

Bronson speaks of his mother's comparison between WWII-era London and New York City during the AIDS crisis; the community that formed in St. Vincent's Hospital in New York during the AIDS crisis; his early childhood in Fort Nelson, Edmonton, St. Jean d'Iberville, and Ottawa, Canada; the development of his sexuality; early childhood fascination with library books; regular visits to the Royal Ontario Museum and National Gallery of Canada as an adolescent ; collecting architecture books and later studying architecture at the University of Manitoba; dropping out of university in 1967 to help form a commune and free school in Winnipeg; watching the commune grow to 65 people and operate on a consensus model of governance; working in Toronto for Coach House Press and Theatre Passe Muraille; the beginnings and interpersonal dynamic of General Idea; leading Gestalt therapy workshops; General Idea's interest in countering the notion of artist as individual genius; organizing File magazine and Art Metropole as correspondence-driven endeavors; having regular exhibitions in Europe by the late 1970s; moving to New York in 1986; the genesis of the AA Bronson persona; General Idea's aesthetic and output; General Idea's AIDS-related artwork; caring for Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz from General Idea, during the height of their HIV-related illnesses in the early 1990s; going to nightclubs and sex clubs in New York as a reprieve from caretaking; the difference in AIDS healthcare and AIDS activism in Toronto and New York; Zontal and Partz's deaths; the ongoing trauma of losing loved ones to HIV/AIDS; the beginnings and development of his solo art career from the mid-1990s to the present; creating the General Idea archive and catalogue raisonne in the early 2000s; developing a professional healing practice in the 1990s and early 2000s; the incorporation of healing into his artistic persona; directing Printed Matter from 2004 to 2011; developing several book fairs, including the LA Art Book Fair; attending Union Theological Seminary; studying Tibetan Buddhism; and the role of the internet in his current collaborations and community-building work. Bronson also recalls Robert Henforth, Murray McLauchlan, Alison and Peter Smithson, Danny Freedman, Gilbert & George, Joseph Beuys, John Armleder, Ray Johnson, Chrysanne Stathacos, Lawrence Weiner, Susan Harrison, Barbara London, Ydessa Hendeles, Matthias Herrmann, Barr Gilmore, Jean-Cristophe Ammann, Ealan Wingate, Andrew Zealley, Max Schumann, Thurston Moore, Serene Jones, Terence Koh, Garrick Gott, Jonathan Katz, and others.

Oral history interview with Carrie Yamaoka, 2016 July 26-27

Archives of American Art
2 sound files (4 hrs., 20 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 83 pages.

An interview with Carrie Yamaoka conducted 2016 July 26-27, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Yamaoka's home in New York, New York.

Interview with Carrie Yamaoka, conducted by Alex Fialho for the Archives of American Art, at Yamaoka's home in New York, New York on July 26 and 27, 2016. Yamaoka speaks of her childhood on Long Island and in New York and Tokyo; formative exposure to visual art and photography; studying at Wesleyan University and the Tyler School of Art in Rome; meeting her partner Joy Episalla and beginning to develop her sense of queerness in Rome; moving to New York in 1979, Hoboken in 1982, and back to New York in 1993; the beginning of the AIDS crisis; her body of work and exhibitions as a painter, and changes in her work over the course of the AIDS crisis; her involvement in ACT UP and fierce pussy; the art world's reaction to AIDS activism; the social effect of more effective medication for HIV/AIDS; her involvement with Visual AIDS; retrospective exhibitions of fierce pussy's activist posters; the sense of community she developed through activism; dealing with the grief and trauma of the AIDS crisis over time; and the particular experience of women in the AIDS crisis. Yamaoka also recalls George Nakashima, Jacqueline Gourevitch, Michael Otterson, Jean Foos, Jonathan Shahn, Flavia Ormond, Jamie McEwan, Jesse Murry, Robert Bordo, Adam Simon, Michele Araujo, David Nelson, David Knudsvig, Bill Allen, Zoe Leonard, Nancy Brooks Brody, Suzanne Wright, Tim Bailey, David Wojnarowicz, Tom Rauffenbart, AA Bronson, Chrysanne Stathacos, Maxine Wolfe, Virginia Solomon, Steve Lam, Helen Molesworth, Martabel Wasserman, Jennifer Bartlett, Tony Feher, and others.

Oral history interview with Jim Hodges, 2017 March 9-May 25

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 16 sound files (3 hr., 44 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 87 pages

Oral history interview with Jim Hodges, conducted 2017 March 9 and May 25, by Cynthia Carr, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Hodges' studio in Queens, New York.

Hodges speaks of his childhood in Spokane, Washington; exposure to art-making in high school and at Fort Wright College; attending Pratt Institute in 1983; his first New York gallery job in 1984; discovering his sexuality and becoming interested in queer life and history; the early years of the AIDS crisis; taking a studio with the Dannheisser Foundation; his body of work in mixed media; his gallery exhibitions in the late 1980s and early '90s; becoming sober in 1990; and the influence of the AIDS crisis on his artwork and art-making process. Hodges also recalls Karen Kaiser, Scott Smith, Marnie Fuller, Davie Nyzio, Lynn McCarty, Robert Vallenciano, Bob Morris, Linda Montano, Joseph Nechvatal, Rhys Chatham, Nancy Hoffman, Hunter Reynolds, Tony Feher, Bill Arning, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Doug Safranek, and others.

HIV's Ability to Cause AIDS Is Weakening

Smithsonian Magazine

Human immunodeficiency virus—the virus that causes AIDS—is evolving.

This fact isn’t new. Sometime in the early 1900s the virus gained the ability to jump from its original primate host to a new one: humans. In the process HIV became a global agent of infection that cripples the immune system. It continues to evolve and dodge the drugs we use to combat it.

But now researchers suspect that HIV’s changes may actually a boon to humankind, for once. These change may be making the virus slower, in a way. 

A new study based in Botswana and South Africa shows that HIV infection is taking longer to develop into AIDS, in part because the virus is becoming less able to cause disease, reports Kate Kelland for Reuters

More than 2,000 women with HIV participated in the study, which sought to understand how the evolution of human resistance to the virus is influencing the epidemic. Some people carry alleles, or gene copies, that give them some protection against HIV. But in Botswana, where the epidemic started earlier than in South Africa, those protective alleles have been out-evolved by HIV. This kind of constant arms-race of evolution makes understanding the epidemic complicated.

The researchers found that the same one-upmanship that let HIV overcome to protective allele’s effect also made the virus replicate slower, they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In other words, HIV was becoming less virulent.

"It is quite striking," study author Philip Goulder of Oxford University told  "You can see the ability to replicate is 10 percent lower in Botswana than South Africa and that's quite exciting."

The development’s speed is surprising, but the fact that it's happening at all is not so strange, explains Tom Chivers for The Telegraph. "We tend to think of viruses and bacteria as trying to harm us, and with that perspective it's easy to assume that they'll evolve to get better at doing that," he writes. "But in fact, all any pathogen is 'trying' to do is survive and reproduce." Viruses that make their hosts sick enough that they stay in bed or kill them outright aren’t actually surviving and reproducing very well. The common cold, conversely, is a very successful virus because people still go to work, sneeze, cough and spread it around.

The new finding may help explain why, for the first time, the number of new HIV infections is lower than the number of HIV positive people new to receiving treatment—a ratio that indicates "a crucial tipping point has been reached in reducing deaths from AIDS," reports Kelland for Reuters.

The slower-to-reproduce HIV isn’t the only factor. Anti-HIV drugs are still helping keep to infections more controlled and to slow the development of AIDS. While theoretically it’s possible that HIV could evolve to a more harmless version of itself, it still is and will remain for some time a deadly disease. "[It] would be overstating it to say HIV has lost its potency -- it's still a virus you wouldn't want to have," Goulder told Reuters. Research and a global effort to beat the epidemic are still needed.

Wasting Disease Clears Way for Young Sea Stars, for Now

Smithsonian Magazine

In 2013, a viral disease that turns sea stars to goo struck with unprecedented ferocity along the Pacific coast of Oregon and California. The wasting disease first twists the arms of sea stars, then withers them and eventually causes the animals to disintegrate completely. The epidemic killed millions, so it came as a surprise when scientists recently counted an unprecedented number of juveniles off the Pacific coast.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University led by marine biologist Bruce Menge has been tracking purple sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) for years. During the height of the epidemic in 2014, the number of larval sea stars on rocks was similar to or a bit lower than that of previous years. “But a few months later, the number of juveniles was off the charts—higher than we’d ever seen—as much as 300 times normal," he says in a statement from the university. “It wasn’t a case of high settlement, or more sea stars being born. They just had an extraordinary survival rate into the juvenile stage. Whether they can make it into adulthood and replenish the population without succumbing to sea star wasting disease is the big question."

The sea star wasting epidemic is one of the most extensive disease events ever recorded in a marine species, the researchers report in the journal PLOS One. Sea stars are important predators in these marine ecosystems, keeping other animals in check. Their loss could potentially upset local food webs. The disease even affects sea stars' cousins, sea urchins

More available food, thanks to the death of adult sea stars, might be the biggest factor behind the recent boom, Menge and his colleagues write. The adult population had been decimated by as much as 84 percent, paving the way for this new generation.

"It's remarkable," ecologist and evolutionary biologist Pete Raimondi at the University of California, Santa Cruz, tells Nsikan Akpan at PBS Newshour. "It's hard to even appreciate that this massive replenishment event is happening so quickly after the loss of adults."

Sea star females can release millions of eggs a year, and the larvae float in ocean currents for 45 to 60 days before settling down, Akpan reports. That reproductive strategy means that sea stars are capable of a quick rebound even in areas where it seems they've been wiped out. Sea star recovery, then isn't a question of "will or won't happen," but when and how long it will take to happen. A slow recovery would mean greater upset to the food web balance.

Researchers still don't know why the virus exploded into such a big epidemic in the first place. Previously, some thought that warming waters might have made the echinoderms more susceptible to the disease, but Menge and others have noted that the virus spreads during colder periods of the year, reports Will Houston for the Eureka Times-Standard. If there is a climate or environmental cue influencing the disease outbreak, it isn't obvious.

That uncertainty makes the researchers cautious about claiming that the population boom is a true recovery. Just because numbers look good now, doesn't mean that this new crop of young sea stars won't succumb to the disease when they get older. For now, Menge and other researchers will continue to watch and wait to see if sea stars are out of danger.

The Difficulty of Burying Ebola's Victims

Smithsonian Magazine

Today, the government of Sierra Leone declared a public emergency: with the support of the police and military, areas of the country where the Ebola virus has spread are under quarantine, and public gatherings are banned. The Ebola epidemic now spreading in West Africa is considered to be the worst ever recorded. It has already claimed at over 600 lives—for Zaire ebolavirus, the death rate for those infected is between 68 and 90 percent. 

In the past, Ebola has not shown up in West Africa but appeared most often in the central part of the continent. While this particular epidemic has entrenched itself in West Africa for any number of reasons, as the New York Times reported earlier this week, one exacerbating factor is the high level of mistrust that local populations have shown towards Western medical professionals. People have hidden family members infected with Ebola or helped them leave hospitals—raising the chance that the disease will spread and prompting Sierra Leone and Liberia to emphasize that hiding infected people is illegal.

That mistrust is enhanced by the grim nature of the disease—and the difficulty of safely but respectfully disposing of victims' bodies. Without disinfectant, traditional burials, in which family members wash the body, can spread the disease. Ebola spreads through direct contact with infected bodily fluids—and the disease can cause people to excrete blood and other bodily fluids as they die. As Scientific American reports:

Unlike most pathogens, which cannot survive long on a corpse, however, Ebola does remain infectious after a person dies—for how long remains unknown. WHO notes that men who have survived the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery, providing a glimpse into the longevity of this potent pathogen.

Telling people that they can’t bury their family members according to tradition can be agonizing, and in order to reassure the living and prevent further infections, health workers follow strict guidelines when disposing of bodies. The WHO’s typical burial guidelines for emergency situations extort workers to prioritize the living over the dead and discourage mass burials, which can be incredibly demoralizing. For Ebola in particular, extreme care must be taken to disinfect the corpse and its belongings before burial or cremation. 

For the most part, that’s exactly what health workers in West Africa have been doing, fighting against a rising tide of mistrust that swells along with the body count. Burial teams operated by the Red Cross have had some success in Sierra Leone, contacting families of the deceased and burying them according to their wishes, disinfecting everything as they work. 

It sounds simple. But in Liberia, hospital morgues are filling up, and burial teams have faced difficulties, being chased out of villages by people who fear infection. The Liberian government is looking into obtaining a dedicated burial ground for Ebola victims. 

In Nigeria, where the disease hasn’t yet gotten a toehold in the population, authorities took no chances. The first person in that country to die of the disease (an American working in Liberia who was on a business trip) was promptly cremated on Sunday. 

The U.S. Has the Highest Overdose Death Rate of Any Wealthy Nation

Smithsonian Magazine

The United States has been gripped by a dire drug crisis. In 2017 alone, drug overdoses caused the deaths of some 70,000 people, with opioids being the main driver of this tragic statistic. So grave is the crisis that Americans are now more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a car crash, according to the National Safety Council. The situation is unprecedented not only in the context of United States history, but also in relation to other countries; as Ed Cara reports for Gizmodo a new study has found that America experiences more drug-related deaths than any other wealthy nation.

Published in the journal Population and Development Review, the study was carried out by Jessica Ho, an assistant professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California. Ho used data from the Human Mortality Database and the World Health Organization Mortality Database to analyze rates of drug overdose deaths in 18 countries between 2003 and 2013. She found that overdose death rates in the U.S. are 3.5 times higher, on average, than those of the other 17 countries. The rates are nearly two times higher than in countries with the next highest numbers of drug overdose deaths—specifically “Anglophone” countries, like Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and Nordic countries, like Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Drug overdose mortality in America is an alarming 27 times higher than in Italy and Japan, which have the lowest rates of the countries analyzed.

“While the United States is not alone in experiencing increases in drug overdose mortality, the magnitude of the differences in levels of drug overdose mortality is staggering,” Ho says.

The unmatched number of drug overdose deaths in the United States is impacting the country’s life expectancy, which has been steadily dropping due to the opioid crisis. By 2013, drug overdoses contributed to 12 percent of the male life expectancy gap between the United States and other wealthy countries, and eight percent of the life expectancy gap among women. In the absence of overdose deaths, the gap that widened between 2003 and 2013 would have been one-fifth smaller for men and one-third smaller for women, according to the study.

“On average, Americans are living 2.6 fewer years than people in other high-income countries,” Ho explains. “This puts the United States more than a decade behind the life expectancy levels achieved by other high-income countries. American drug overdose deaths are widening this already significant gap and causing us to fall even further behind our peer countries.”

This wasn’t always the case. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the United States was not an outlier in terms of drug overdose deaths, and Nordic countries were experiencing the highest rates among wealthy nations. But a number of factors—including false reassurances by pharmaceutical companies that opioids are not addictive, which in turn led to their overprescription as painkillers—have driven the current epidemic. As efforts to decrease opioid prescriptions have taken hold, addicted patients have turned to heroin and, more recently, fentanyl, a synthetic drug even more deadly than prescription pills and heroin.

In other countries, by contrast, opioid prescriptions have been tightly controlled. In Japan, for instance, doctors are required to undergo extensive training before they can prescribe opioids for non-cancer related pain. In France, Italy and Portugal, patients have to be registered before they can receive opioid medications. But Ho notes in her study that significant increases in opioid-related deaths have been documented in Australia and Canada, where opioid consumption has also increased. And while not as dramatic as the situation in the United States, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have also seen higher rates of opioid prescribing in recent years.

“The use of prescription opioids and synthetic drugs like fentanyl are becoming increasingly common in many high-income countries,” Ho says, “and constitute a common challenge to be confronted by these countries.”

Oral history interview with Lyle Ashton Harris, 2017 March 27-29

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 6 sound files (8 hr., 6 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 95 pages

An interview with Lyle Ashton Harris, conducted 2017 March 27 and 29, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Harris's studio and home in New York, New York.

Harris speaks of his childhood in the Bronx; his family's influence on his race-consciousness; living in Tanzania for two years as a child and the effects on his understanding of race and sexuality; his grandfather's extensive photographic archive; contact with the South African diaspora through his step-father; attending Wesleyan University; formative experiences in London, Amsterdam, and New York in the mid-1980s; his education and development as a photographer; attending CalArts and encountering West Coast AIDS activism; encountering systemic racism in Los Angeles; close friendships with Marlon Riggs and Essex Hemphill; exhibitions of his work in New York in the early 1990s; the production of his Ektachrome Archive and his impulse to photograph daily life; his work on the Black Community AIDS Research and Education (Black C.A.R.E.) project in Los Angeles; participating in the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program; being diagnosed with HIV and remaining asymptomatic; attending the Dia Black Popular Culture Conference in 1992; photographing and mounting "The Good Life" in 1994 and "The Watering Hole" in 1996; issues of blackness and queerness in his photographic work; his residency at the American Academy in Rome in 2000; moving to Accra, Ghana for seven years in 2005; his pedagogy as an art professor; his thoughts on the lack of voices of color in the Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic Oral History Project and in the larger power structures of the art world; and his hope that his artistic legacy will be evaluated in its proper context. Harris also recalls Jackie and Robert O'Meally, Jay Seeley, Ellen O'Dench, Francesca Woodman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jim Collier, Robert Mapplethorpe, Allan Sekula, Hazel Carby, Isaac Julien, Catherine Lord, Millie Wilson, Todd Gray, John Grayson, Tommy Gear, Marlon Riggs, Essex Hemphill, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nancy Barton, Vickie Mays, Connie Butler, Greg Tate, Henry Louis Gates, Houston Baker, Nan Goldin, Jack Tilton, Simon Watson, and others.

Oral history interview with Douglas Crimp, 2017 January 3-4

Archives of American Art
Sound recording: 5 sound files (6 hr., 2 min.) digital, wav

Transcript: 69 pages

An interview with Douglas Crimp, conducted 2017 January 3-4, by Alex Fialho, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Crimp's home in New York, New York.

Crimp speaks of growing up in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; his athleticism in water skiing and ice skating; sibling rivalry as a child; seeing art for the first time at the Seattle World Fair; being closeted and conflicted as a young gay man in 1950s Idaho; attending Tulane University in New Orleans and the culture shock he experienced there; his first year in Tulane's rigorous architecture program and ultimately changing his major to art history; the pageantry of Mardi Gras parades and the gay society he explored; writing an undergraduate paper analyzing Marcel Duchamp's "The Large Glass"; deciding to go to New York City; finding his voice as an art critic while beginning his career at Art News and Art International; his extensive analysis of Joan Jonas; attending Firehouse dances sponsored by Gay Activist Alliance and coming into his sexuality; being a patient of esteemed doctor Dr. Dan William; first learning of the AIDS crisis and epidemic through a New York Times article in 1981 describing a gay cancer; receiving an NEA art critic grant and spending a year in Germany from 1985-86; returning to find friends and acquaintances sick with HIV/AIDS or having died from it; the Dia Conversations; his role as editor of October and bringing queerness and AIDS to the forefront; joining ACT UP; the genesis of October's AIDS double issue in 1987-1988 and its success; how the journal issue changed the course of his career and steered him to teach gay studies and further his work with AIDS activism; the inner workings of ACT UP meetings; the sense of community ACT UP provided and the empowerment everyone felt; noting a sense of personal and professional urgency during the crisis; the timeline of his AIDS writings; his reaction to seeing the AIDS quilt for the first time at the March on Washington; writing to a wide, non-academic audience; his 1988 course at Rutgers University on AIDS video; his complex relationships with Rosalind Krauss and Annette Michelson; the poor coverage of the AIDS epidemic in the media and how it informed his writing; the understanding of the need for safe sex practices and writing "How to Have Promiscuity in an Epidemic;" teaching courses on AIDS at the University of Rochester and how his teaching interest evolved into queer theory and studies; evaluating Warhol's work with a queer lens; writing about his experience with queer life in New York City in the 1970s to counter the condescending conservative narrative; his current writing projects and interests; experience in demonstrations held by ACT UP; and the tremendous communal support he felt during his seroconversion. Crimp also recalls Marilynne Summers (Robinson), Bernard Lemann, Marimar Benetiz, Ida Kohlmeyer, Lynn Emory, Diane Waldman, Betsy Baker, Lucinda Hawkins, Christian Belaygue, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Rosalind Krauss, Joan Copjec, Gregg Bordowitz, Terri Cafaro, Rene Santos, Craig Owens, Fernando Torm, Bill Olander, Richard Elovich, Daniel Wolfe, Hector Caicedo, Lynne Cooke, and Zoe Leonard.

Beetles Have Destroyed 38,000 Square Miles of Forest

Smithsonian Magazine

Out in the west, mountain pine beetles are killing off trees. More than 38,000 square miles of forested land out have been affected by these beetles, which target trees that happen to be important to these ecosystems and create great brown blotches across the verdant landscape. It's not just bad for trees: those brown blotches are particularly prone to wildfires. 

This year’s farm bill designated 45.6 million acres—that's 71,250 square miles—of forest across the National Forest System for restoration. These forested areas were targeted because they are facing down massive epidemics, either from disease or insects like the pine beetles. Without interventions like this one, the future isn’t looking all that rosy for beetle-infested trees.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Recent winters haven’t been cold enough to kill off the beetles. The average U.S. temperature has increased by as much as 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with most of the warmest winters occurring since 1970, according to the National Climate Assessment the Obama administration issued in May. The warmer winters allow beetles to proliferate at higher elevations and latitudes, resulting in more generations per year in some areas, according to a 2011 Forest Service report.

As their habitat expands due to climate change, scientists are monitoring the beetles’ spread using satellite imagery to track areas of dead trees. Fighting an entrenched epidemic is hard enough, but politics makes everything just a little bit more difficult. Governors might be quite pleased with the farm bill's new designations, but the Forest Service makes it clear that:

 The designated areas will not immediately result in treatment, nor are the designations a commitment to treat all acres within designated areas.

No funding for restoration projects has yet been appropriated, either, though the Forest Service has said that it “will continue to place priority on increasing the pace and scale of restoration.”

Scientists Plan to Kill Off the American West's Tumbleweeds

Smithsonian Magazine

Tumbleweeds may be an icon of the Old West, but for modern westerners they're nothing but a nuisance. When they grow—as big, green spindly bushes—they take over farming and grazing land. When they dry up in the fall they become a traveling fire hazard: “rolling balls of kindling,” says Louis Sahagun for the Los Angeles Times. Now, researchers with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service have a plan to eradicate the tumbleweed by unleashing an imported fungus, says Popular Science.

Despite their iconic status, tumbleweeds are not native to America. Instead, as Smart News wrote previously, they were brought over from Asia in the late 1800s. After decades of searching, says Francie Diep for Popular Science, researchers with the U.S. agricultural service think the best bet to take out America's tumbleweed infestation is to use the plant's natural foes. The team are awaiting permission to release two fungi imported from Russia into the wild.

Before they sought permission, says Diep, the researchers tested whether the fungi would be able to infect native species. Based on their work, she says, the pathogen seems promising:

The team checked 89 species' vulnerability to C. salsolae, plus 64 species' vulnerability to U. salsolae. Only a few species were vulnerable to infection at all. Those that were didn't seem to suffer in overall health from the infection. One helpful fact: Plant diseases tend to infect closely related species and there are no plants native to the U.S. that share tumbleweeds' genus, Salsola.

Tumbleweeds are generally a background problem, but they have a tendency to flare up when it's particularly dry, says the Los Angeles Times. In California right now, the ongoing drought has triggered a boom in tumbleweed populations.  

The 17th-Century Polish Vampire Next Door

Smithsonian Magazine

As far back as the 11th century, a disturbing myth took hold across Eastern Europe: some people who died would claw their way out of the grave as blood-sucking monsters that terrorized the living. Evidence of anti-vampire rituals—a metal rod hammered through a centuries-old skeleton, for instance—is widespread in the region. But an important question remains: How did the living decide who was at risk of becoming a vampire?

One popular hypothesis among scholars is that strangers, new to town, might have been targeted as vampires. But determining which long-buried corpses belonged to locals and which to foreigners is no easy task. 

To put this hypothesis to the test, researchers turned to biogeochemical analysis of bones found in vampire graves from a cemetery in northwestern Poland. The researchers discovered six unusual skeletons, all buried between the 17th and 18th century. They all had either sickles placed across their neck or body or large rocks stacked under their chin—signs that whoever buried these bodies took extra precautions to keep them in the ground. All of the hundreds of other bodies in the cemetery, on the other hand, were perfectly normal.

The researchers analysed radiogenic strontium isotope ratios—an indicator of diet—extracted from the tooth enamel of 60 skeletons (including the six vampires) to see what these people had eaten during their lives. The results surprised them: all six of the vampires were likely from the area.   

"These individuals were not suspected of becoming vampires due to their identity as non-locals, but instead, were distrusted within some other, additional societal context as members of the local community," the researchers report today in the journal PLOS ONE. In other words, these weren't creepy strangers who had wandered into town; these were loved ones and neighbors. 

What could have caused a parent to suspect a daughter of becoming a vampire or a wife to worry that her husband's body might return from the grave? The authors do have one guess: it could be that those labeled vampires were the first victims of cholera epidemics—a common problem at the time those six persons died. As the study's lead author, Lesley Gregoricka, hypothesized: "People of the post-medieval period did not understand how disease was spread, and rather than a scientific explanation for these epidemics, cholera and the deaths that resulted from it were explained by the supernatural – in this case, vampires." 

Scientists Who Traveled to Ebola-Infected Countries Are Being Asked to Skip a Big Tropical Medicine Meeting

Smithsonian Magazine

At least several scientists had to cancel plans to attend this year's meeting of the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, scheduled to take place this weekend in New Orleans. The reason? They visited an Ebola-infected country within the last 21 days or came in contact with an Ebola-infected patient within that time frame.

As ScienceNOW reports, the decision came from Louisiana's state health officials, who want to take no chances that some of those scientists might be carrying the disease and could spread it at the meeting. As they wrote in a letter distributed by email: "Given that conference participants with a travel and exposure history for [Ebola] are recommended not to participate in large group settings (such as this conference) or to utilize public transport, we see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans to simply be confined to your room." 

Not surprisingly, those affected are not pleased. Most agree that there is no scientific basis to support the decision. Here's some of their reactions, as reported in ScienceNOW: 

"This policy is fundamentally flawed and not evidence-based," says Daniel Bausch, a researcher at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans who is the organizer of one of two specialized Ebola symposia at the meeting.

"It's very unfortunate and could potentially be counterproductive by preventing health care workers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea from sharing their experiences and findings at one of the most important tropical disease meetings globally," adds Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

The health officials themselves acknowledge that asymptomatic individuals cannot transmit the disease, ScienceNOW continues, but say that they're nevertheless putting the ban in place as precautionary measure.

Still, they add, their decision not to let the researchers attends "certainly [does] not reflect a lack of appreciation for your service and sacrifice in efforts to treat and end the [Ebola] epidemic." Given that scientific meetings are important opportunities for researchers to exchange ideas, form collaborations and discuss current real-world problems, however, the decision not to let key players in that battle against Ebola attend could hamper efforts to end the Ebola epidemic. 

When Newspapers Reported on Gun Deaths as "Melancholy Accidents"

Smithsonian Magazine

Earlier this month, a gun rights activist made national headlines when her four-year-old son shot her in the back with her handgun while she was driving. Her story, unsurprisingly, drew intense scrutiny. A Facebook page she operated featured posts such as, “My right to protect my child with a gun trumps your fear of my gun,” which in turn lead to many online commenters to take a seemingly perverse, outsized pleasure in her suffering. One Slate reader commented on a story about the case, “While it’s good she didn’t die, she got what she deserved.” (Meanwhile, her county Sheriff’s office is pursuing misdemeanor charges for the unsafe storage of a firearm and, according to The Gainsville Sun, the state has opened a child protective investigation.)

Though the story has a distinctly 21st-century feel to it, at its core, it’s a story older than our country, and that it reached a wide and vociferous audience is, actually, nothing new either. Accidental gun deaths and injuries, especially those inflicted on family members, are as American as apple pie – at least according to American religious history scholar Peter Manseau.

In 2012, while at work on his previous book, One Nation Under Gods, Manseau discovered a genre of newspaper reports dating back to colonial America called “melancholy accidents.” As he explains in the introduction to his new book, Melancholy Accidents: Three Centuries of Stray Bullets and Bad Luck, “Though these accident reports also took note of drownings, horse tramplings, and steamship explosions, guns provided their assemblers with the most pathos per column inch.” Over four years, Manseau read and collected hundreds of these reports, ultimately gathering more than 100 of them into his book, which contains reports spanning nearly two centuries of American history.

Melancholy accidents “bridge a gap not of geography or politics, but of time,” Manseau writes about the reports. In America, the news media continues to write news stories about accidental gun deaths, and it seems unlikely the feed will ever stop. As one report from 1872 reads, “We thought a good strong frost would put an end to shot-gun accidents, but people still blaze away at themselves.”


Melancholy Accidents: Three Centuries of Stray Bullets and Bad Luck

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And, as Manseau discovered in his research, the accidents themselves are not the only constant. The way we react to them has remained surprisingly similar, too. From the time when we called these deaths and injuries “melancholy accidents” through to today, the age of the hashtag #gunfail, history has shown us to be a people who can’t live with their guns, but won’t live without them.

Manseau spoke to about his research, the book, and what he calls the “alternate history of guns in America” that he discovered in the melancholy accident reports.

You mention in the introduction that you stumbled upon the phenomenon of “melancholy accidents” while doing historical research. What were you researching when you discovered melancholy accidents and when did you realize you wanted to collect these accidents and publish them?

My last book, One Nation Under Gods, told the story of religion in America from the point of view of religious minorities, going back into the early 18th century. I was reading a lot of newspaper accounts looking for evidence of religious minorities, and while I was doing that research, I kept coming across this phrase “melancholy accidents.”

This was a genre of newspaper reporting that seems to have started in England and was brought to colonial America very early on. It would often refer to people drowning in rivers or being blown up by steam ships and that sort of thing, but what seemed most common for “melancholy accidents” was that they were gun accidents. They were reports of musket exploding or misfiring, killing the person who was using it or someone who happened to be unfortunate enough to be nearby.

It began to seem to me that the genre of gun accident reports has been part of American journalism from the very beginning. The stories spoke to each other across the centuries as this genre of journalism, this type of American storytelling that endured no matter what changes were going on politically or within the population as it changed. That struck me as a fascinating thing, that here was something that remained unchanging in American culture throughout the centuries.

Had you heard of “melancholy accidents” before?

Other scholars have noted them, but not specifically having to do with guns so, after I discovered them for myself, I began to research them.

This is my sixth or seventh book, and it was a great relief as a writer to write with other people's words, to compile these reports and let them speak for themselves. I found that they had a power that is difficult to bring in your own writing. 

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

Image by Melville House. (original image)

How systematic were you in looking for them? Is the book a small representative slice of all of the melancholy accidents reported from 1739 to 1916 or is this the grand total of melancholy accidents on public record?

I really could have included, without exaggeration, hundreds more. These were published in dozens of newspapers for centuries. I continue to find new ones, in fact, and often I'll find a new one and think, “I wish I had included that in the book.” They are really such a fascinating window on lives lived long ago.

Many of them are just so haunting. The style of early American newspaper writing is, in some ways, very spare and yet, in other ways, is very florid in its language. There’s something about them. They’re so different from the way we write stories now, or different from the way we often read stories now.  It gives them this haunting quality. They linger and you can really feel the anguish felt by the people on the page.

Why did you stop at 1916?

I could have continued well past 1916, all the way up to today, certainly. I chose 1916 because it is 100 years before today exactly, but also because something seems to happen with the arrival of the First World War to the way violence is spoken about in the American press. It also seems the be the end of this phrase “melancholy accidents.” It doesn't turn up in the press at all as far as I can remember after that. In the 20th century, it began to seem archaic in a way it wasn’t before and so it seemed to me a natural stopping point.

Can you talk about some of the things you realized about America’s relationship with guns through history?

One of the things that I kept running into was this idea of divine indifference. We think of colonial America and the young United States as being a very religious place, and yet when you read these gun accident reports, they give this sense of feeling that if you come in contact with guns, you're ruled suddenly, entirely by fate, that God takes no interest in how people are interacting with guns, and there's no question or lament about this: How did this happen? How do bad things happen to good people? It's just a feeling that if we choose to make guns a part of our lives, this is bound to be part of our experience, and we are bound to experience this again and again.

How has gun culture in our country evolved over time?

Guns play a very different role in American society today than they used to. Once upon a time, they were, for many people, tools that you would use for sustenance. You might feel you needed to have them for protection if you are living in remote places and need to defend yourself against wolves and bears and whatnot. They were very practical tools for early Americans.

For Americans today, they seem to be far more often tools of enjoyment and tools of hobbyists, and that very fact makes them entirely different objects as far as what they mean to Americans. That, to me, makes them far less necessary. And yet, as they have become less necessary, they have also become a symbol of the clash between those who use them for enjoyment and those who fear those who use them for enjoyment. They've become a symbol of this clash within the culture in a way that they were not in early American history.

Have the ways that we’ve struggled to come to terms with accidental gun deaths changed?

I guess we've come to terms with them in the sense that they keep happening, and we all just throw up our hands about it and say, “Well, that's what happens when you have guns in your life, that's what happens when you have so many guns in your country, when you have as many guns in the United States as there are people.” They're bound to intersect in these fatal ways very often, and so there's a sense of resignation, this helplessness that this is bound to continue to happen.

And that’s very similar to what I found in these early accident reports, this feeling that if you have objects in your life that are designed to kill, you have to assume that they will do so very often, even when you don't want them to. The feeling of helplessness in the face of guns endures.

The reason I collected these stories and chose to retell them the way I did, was that I hoped to provide a kind of corrective to the stories that we usually tell about guns. Guns within American culture, the way we think and talk about them, there's so much determined by the mythology of the frontier or the mythology of the western. We think of guns as being these heroic machines that allow for the preservation or protection of freedom. And yet I started to wonder as I collected these stories, what if that is not the most enduring meaning of guns? What if the most enduring meaning is not heroism, but tragedy? What if accidents are really what happens far more often with guns than them being used as they are intended? I wanted to propose another, an alternate history of guns in America, through these primary sources to let them speak for themselves.

I really didn't write the book with any kind of political agenda, though. I have no problem with hunting culture or responsible gun use, people who choose to own and use guns for recreation. I have no problem with any of that, and I don't expect that anyone's going to read this book and suddenly say, "I had no idea how dangerous guns could be!"

Gun owners know that best of all. They know far better than people who never get close to them how dangerous they can be. But I did want to open up this view of the past that shows how these accidents are far from a modern phenomenon. These small-scale tragedies have shaped our experience with guns entirely from the beginning. I am, first of all, a person interested in the stories and to me, that’s how these accidents reports resonate.

Some of these are stunningly tragic; others have a note of dark humor. Were there any melancholy accidents that stayed with you or affected you most?

The ones that stay with me for their tragedy are usually the parents who accidentally take the lives of their children. The telling of those stories, with just a sentence or a detail, make it so easy to imagine yourself into that situation and know the pain they must have felt. For me those are the most haunting.

But again and again I would find these accident reports that you just couldn’t help laughing at. One I'm thinking about right now is a woman who was doing her ironing, she's ironing handkerchiefs, and she's accidentally shot in the leg. The accident report is careful to note that she finished her ironing before she called a physician. It's a very funny situation to read on the page. It's also suggestive of the way the accidents, all told, are taken in stride.

Every day there's a new gun accident in the news. When we read about them, we either find them absurd and funny or terribly tragic, and yet we take them in stride, we go about our business, because this is what life with guns is, it's what it means. We hear the gunshot and we go on with our ironing.

How long did the project take?

The book actually began as a little piece I wrote for the New Yorker three years ago this month. But they just lingered with me, the idea of them. And so I kept looking for them. I began finding them accidentally, but then I began looking for them, and that's when I couldn't stop. It became this obsession for a little while, finding these and wanting to show them to world. All told, off and on it was probably a matter of four years I spent wondering about melancholy accidents.

Was it difficult to do so much research on private and personal tragedies?

I didn’t find it ultimately depressing. The interesting thing about the melancholy accidents is that they are ultimately not about death. They are ultimately about the living, about the people who survive and how they deal with this tragedy. That's true of any stories of tragedy, I think. It's ultimately about what comes next and what we can learn from it. I think they raise questions that anyone living asks about what it means to be alive and how we endure in the face of such tragedies.

One that topic, some of the reports talk about the grief that the shooters feel afterwards, how they dealt with it for the rest of their lives. Has that changed over time?

The accident reports go into such detail of the grief these people felt, whether it was a brother who accidentally killed his sister and then they had to try to stop him from taking his own life after seeing what he had done, or the father who accidentally killed his child and then the report notes that he himself died of a broken heart weeks later… I imagine that the feelings of grief have changed very little, no matter how much the technology of the weapons has changed or the way we think about weapons as a culture has changed. That part seems, to me, to endure. 

A difficult part of being involved in a tragedy like this today is that you probably can't escape it in the way that you could then. The digital trail of having your name associated with one of these things is going to follow you for the rest of your life. With the book coming out, I've been doing more research on gun accidents more recently, and I happened to come across an article from sometime in the early 90s. It showed a picture of a little boy with his mother, and it noted that the little boy had accidentally killed his baby sister with gun. I thought, “That little boy in the early 90s is now a grown man. No doubt he still lives with that.” And his story, his pain, is there to be found by anyone who happens to stumble across it online. It's a way that the tragedy continues to echo. 

An example of a "melancholy accident" (Courtesy of Peter Manseau)

"Campaign '92: AIDS..." button

National Museum of American History
Square white button with navy blue outline of the United States with "AIDS" written across it. Says "Campaign 92: VOTE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED ON IT!" in red writing.

From ACT UP Indiana. During the presidential campaign of 1992 (between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush), members of ACT UP protested, crashed political dinners, and performed demonstrations across the United States. Their main goal was to urge the candidates to talk about the AIDS epidemic and take action to help those with the illness.

Patterns of Health and Wellbeing 05: Q & A

National Museum of the American Indian
Health issues among American Indians, such as diabetes and substance abuse, are reaching epidemic levels. The majority of governmental and externally driven responses to these health issues have focused on the physical aspects of disease. Much less research has been done on the relationships between culture and health within Native communities. This symposium presents a report on active collaborations between Native community members and researchers that focus on the distinct cultural values about wellbeing held by Native communities in solving serious health issues. Cosponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In this section Tom Belt (Cherokee), Beverly Cook (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk), and Louise McDonald (Haudenosaunee-Mohawk) answer questions from the audience. Patterns of Health and Wellbeing: An Intercultural Symposium was webcast from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian Rasmuson Theater on April 11, 2014.

Study reveals Agriculture and Fishing Cause Coral Reef Decline

Smithsonian Insider

Since researchers began surveys in the 1980s, coral reefs in the Caribbean have undergone widespread change following bleaching and disease epidemics that have reduced the […]

The post Study reveals Agriculture and Fishing Cause Coral Reef Decline appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Yanomamo: a Multidisciplinary Study c. 1968

Human Studies Film Archives
Supplementary materials: 1,5,6

Cataloging supported by Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee

Edited film documenting an American expedition into the Amazon Basin of Venezuela to perform various medical studies on the Yanomamo. Geneticists are seen taking height and weight measurements, various samples, and administering vaccinations in order to stop a measles epidemic. Project from which the film was made was funded by U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Division of Biology and Medicine; National Institutes of Health; and National Science Foundation.
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