The legend describes what the icons in the map stand for -- local protests, vigils, marches and meetings, combined with national and international events related to AIDS awareness and activism. The information is presented so that you can curate your own journey through the history of AIDS activism in Los Angeles.

To start, click on the History tab next to the User Guide tab to open the History panel. Scroll through the timeline or select a button to select a time period to view. Historical events and organizations formed during the selected timeline will be highlighted and populated both in the map below as well as the History panel you selected. To learn more about a particular historical event, either click on an icon in the timeline or on the map, and the History panel to the right will highlight the details.

There are many ways to engage the project. It is more important that you find something useful than that you engage it ''correctly.'' Here are a couple of suggestions for use: you could investigate how local events related to national and international events through time by clicking on the timeline and cycling through from 1981 to 1991. Or, you may choose to see how events related to AIDS activism spread through the Los Angeles area by looking at the map and hovering over the icons to see where certain events were dispersed geographically, when they happened and what these events entailed. These different methods of navigation provide context not only about the certain events of activism, but how these events were related to other events through time and geographic space.

Our Team

We are a group of graduate students hailing from Gender Studies and Information Studies Departments at UCLA, collaborating on a project for our Digital Humanities Certificate. Feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Our contact information is as follows:
Marika Cifor
William Corrigan
Sarah Montoya
Britt S. Paris
Citation for the project:
Cifor, M.L.; Corrigan, W.; Montoya, S.; Paris, B.S. ''ACT UP/LA History Capsule,'' March, 2016.


The two main components of this project are vis.js, a dynamic timeline API, and the Google Maps API. The site borrows and builds upon the work done by the team on Mapping Iranian Jewish LA, created in 2015 at UCLA. Our team sends our deepest gratitude to Joanna, Amin, Sarah, and Chris. Our team would especially like to thank Chris Tripp, who was the primary coder on the project and made the files available via GitHub.

What is ACTUP?

ACT UP is an international non-violent direct action advocacy group founded in 1987 to fight for legislation, treatment, research, and media attention to challenge the status quo, improve the lives of HIV/AIDS affected persons, and to defeat the virus. On a national level ACT UP actions transformed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) medication trial and approval processes, expanded AIDS healthcare services, including those for women, prisoners, and those living in poverty, and challenged immigration and naturalization policies. ACT UP was structured into city-based chapters. Within each chapter it was organized into affinity groups and caucuses. ACT UP is most remembered for its street-based, postmodern and confrontational activism that captured the attention of the media and the popular imaginary.[2] In particular, ACT UP sought to manage and cultivate the media by carefully orchestrating each action to ''emphasize its visual punch.''[3] Today, a few ACT UP chapters continue to protest for HIV prevention in prison and against insufficient medical treatment globally, however the group is best known for its activities in the late 1980s and early 1990s.[4]

What was the role of ACTUP/LA?

ACT UP/LA was founded by Los Angeles activists who were inspired by the founding of ACT UP/New York and energized by the March on Washington earlier that year. Four hundred people attended the first meeting in West Hollywood on December 4, 1987. At that meeting they organized their first action, a demonstration against the Immigration and Naturalization Service for their policies imposing mandatory HIV testing and restricting the movement and migration of HIV affected bodies. That December action was the first of hundreds of actions between 1987 and 1995. At its peak, ACT UP/LA operated a public office, published a newsletter, had a mailing list of approximately 2200 names, and met weekly.[6] Despite its significance ACT UP/LA, like most chapters outside of New York, has received only a tiny share of the attention in the story of AIDS activism. This project intervenes in discourses that form the urban gay meccas, the end points of queer migrations from the rural and suburban, in the national imaginary as only New York and San Francisco. Los Angeles was also a significant site for AIDS activism, as well as queer life and politics.[7]

Project Rationale

This prototype for a larger DH project seeks to animate an archive of images that illuminate ACT UP/LAs existence beginning in the early 1980s. By associating particular events in ACT UP/ LAs history with the images that are linked to chronological and geographical information, we are able to see the diffusion of ACT UP/LAs work as it progressed through the 1980s and early 1990s. Users are able curate their journey through the archive by navigating through the map, or by scrolling through the timeline. By linking these two interfaces—the map and the timeline—users may trace their way through the multifaceted work of ACT UP/LA in Los Angeles in this time period.

The necessity of this animated archive of ACT UP/LA history is most clearly highlighted by the fact that there exists no consolidated archive of the historical images, dates and events related to ACT UP/LA. ACT UP NYC, on the other hand, is documented extensively in a series of archival websites replete with oral history archives, timelines and maps. It is ACT UP NYCs website, or history capsule, that serves as the conceptual and functional guide for the project at hand. ACT UP NYCs history capsule is an invaluable resource for those interested in understanding the history of AIDS and LGBT activism, and is a wellspring for further research and activism. Our goal with this project is to provide a resource that would first, document the history of ACT UP/LA in an easily-accessible website and second, promote sustained research and activism relating to this topic.


The images included in this prototype are drawn primarily from the ONE National Lesbian and Gay Archives at the the University of Southern California, which has some assets online. Digital images from the Lambda Archives in San Diego, CA are also used. However, an understanding of the contextual relationships among these images is limited by the complexity of the online finding aids combined with the sparse metadata associated with the images. By linking these images to contextualizing information, we seek to open these images to encourage public engagement with the images and the events surrounding them. We contextualize the work of ACT UP/LA with these images through the timeline and map elements, so that any interested party, regardless of their knowledge of the subject, will be able to find useful information and archival sources for research, activism or other projects. This project is designed as an example of an ''animated archive'' as well as an engagement with ''thick mapping' as described in Burdick et al's Digital_Humanities. We intend for this ACT UP/LA history capsule to be a tool to inspire and inform many types of projects.

We took seriously the fact mentioned in Burdick et al., that maps are ''visualizations or representations of a group of relations and structuring assumptions that present knowledge.'' [8] At present, the map, layered with other information, contextualizes the history of ACT UP/LA to make an argument about the historical importance of Los Angeles as a site for productive AIDS activism, LGBT advocacy and related activities. We wanted to show how ACT UP/LA spread over time as well as how its efforts dispersed geographically through neighborhoods and sections of the city. We have approached this argument and underlying goals through ''thick mapping'' a method of knowledge presentation and interpretation that seeks to disrupt conventional approaches to mapping, which tend to present positivistic, static arguments about how the world is. Digital maps are useful tools for thick mapping because they contain navigable layers of spatial data rendered visually that allow for more flexible engagement with knowledge. Users are able their own trajectory through the layers of site-specific meaning. The fact that the information in this project is not aggregated and made available to the public anywhere else is a type of ''counter mapping'' that confronts the dominant narrative which concentrates the work of ACT UP in San Francisco and New York City.

As this project seeks to compile and open an archive in a way that is engaging and helpful for a variety of imagined user purposes, the concept of the ''animated archive'' we engage with this project is an approach knowledge display based on opening access to historical artifacts. [9] To do this we employ a user-centered approach to the construction of our online archive that builds a variety of use-scenarios into the architecture of the archive.


Due to the truncated production timeline for the current iteration of the prototype, we had to make tradeoffs that will need to be addressed as this project continues. At present there is a only a small sample of images, which would grow to include thousands of digital objects as the project reaches maturity. These images are supplied by the ONE archive and published through the USC database. The rights to these images are held by both the archive and the individual producers of the images. As the project develops into a public resources, as we envision, it would require the participation of the ONE archive and of the ACT UP/LA organizers and activists. This active coordination both adheres to the collaborative spirit of Digital Humanities, and is vital to guarantee the accuracy of and justification of this project.

Next, it is necessary to address the technical limitations of the current iteration of the project. We have used Snazzy Maps, a mapping platform that runs on Google's API. The prototype's databases are managed through Google Sheets. Our Images are hosted on Flickr. As these are proprietary platforms, it is likely that at some point the APIs will be updated and the interface will no longer be supported. It is necessary to plan for these contingencies by switching to an open mapping interface, photo and database storage platform. Finally, as the archive grows to include many digital objects of different types, it will require additional server space to accommodate increased storage and functionality.

We must emphasize that even though digital maps can be understood as a way to approach ''thick mapping,'' that allows the cumulative layering of more types of data, the design, engagement with and interpretation of knowledge is still constrained by the technology and assumptions undergirding our own prototype. For example, the process of assigning events to discrete cartographic points within the map exposed the kind of elisions that are present in many mapping projects. Parades, meetings, and demonstrations do not occur in one instant at a specific latitude and longitude, but are geographically and temporally continuous. At present, the prototype does not allow the depiction of parade or demonstration routes, recurring and long-term events, and other ongoing activities of ACT UP/LA. We hope that future efforts will thoughtfully navigate these issues of spatial mobility and temporal duration and the problems these present for mapping projects. We recognize that this archive is a tool for interpretation of such events and that it presents an outlet for collaborative knowledge production. Eventually we would like to incorporate user-generated information in a way that is respectful, productive and useful. As the project grows, it will be important to assess how the affordances and goals of this project fit in relation technical and other practical requirements, while maintaining transparency in our decisions and actions for the production of the archive.

In our rationale behind and development of the ACT UP/LA animated archive prototype, we hope to have justified its construction and demonstrated its viability as a long term project. Though there are many hurdles to be overcome before the project will stand alone, we argue that the hybrid animated archive/thick mapping approach is an appropriate form of interactive display of the history of ACT UP/LA—one that frames the uniqueness of this rich history, contextualizes these events both locally and within the national and international discussion on AIDS/HIV activism, and makes this information accessible and useful to the general public.


[1] Deborah Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight Against AIDS. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 32.
[2] Alexandra Juhasz, ''Forgetting ACT UP.'' Quarterly Journal of Speech 98, No. 1 (February 2012): 69.
[3] Susan Leigh Foster,'' Choreographies of Protest.'' Theatre Journal 55, No 3 (October 2003): 405.
[4] Lucas Hilderbrand, ''Retroactivism.'' GLQ 12, No. 2 (2006): 303.
[5] Foster, 406.
[6] David Lacaillade. ''And The End Is Not In Sight: A History of ACT/Los Angeles'' December 1987-December 1993. (1993), Finding Aid, ACT UP/Los Angeles Records, Coll2011-010, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, California.
[7] Karen Tongson, Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (New York: NYU Press, 2011).
[8] Burdick, A; Drucker, J.D.; Lunenfeld, P.; Presner, T.; Schnapp, J. Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012, 68.
[9] Digital_Humanities, 69.