The Douglas Basil Carpenter Collection
Douglass Basil Carpenter has donated a wide variety of items pertaining to modes of activism, memorialization, worship, and recreation during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The collection also includes objects pertaining to recreational activities and events among Denver’s gay male community during the pre-AIDS era of the 1970s.
The AIDS epidemic officially began on June 5, 1981, when five homosexual men in Los Angeles were diagnosed with “Pneumocystis pneumonia.” Because of the disease’s long gestation period, it spread throughout urban homeless communities (through intravenous drug use) and gay male communities (through unprotected sexual encounters) for years before it was recognized as an outbreak. Due to negative social stigmas about homosexual men during the 1980s, the Federal government failed to productively assist with AIDS/HIV prevention, education, and research until 1997, when President Bill Clinton established the National AIDS Strategy. Consequently, urban gay male communities across the nation were forced to support themselves and each other in the absence of government assistance. This took the form of fund raising, public education, activism, and even recreation. As of 2017, about 700,000 people were believed to have died of AIDS-related causes in the U.S.
This collection contains photos, brochures, programs, magazines, and ephemera reflecting the ways that Denver’s gay male community banded together during the most tragic chapter of modern queer history. These objects offer an invaluable window into the private lives of local gay men during this period, as well as community efforts to support those affected by HIV/AIDS while also sustaining a social culture.
A photo reel included in the collection contains photo slides primarily of the 1975 Tobie Awards, which showcased and represented Denver’s gay culture in a single night of entertainment. The slides include pictures of awards being presented and accepted, the performances of drag queens and dance groups, and an abundance of enthusiastic spectators. This depiction of the “Tobies” offers a glimpse into the pride and optimism of Denver’s pre-AIDS queer community.