Thousands of items from the Casey House archives have now been unearthed and documented thanks to our spring archival resident, Melissa Bessie. Melissa, a second-year graduate student at Toronto Metropolitan University in the Photography Preservation and Collections Management Program, whose research focuses on the visual representations of HIV during the early years of the HIV epidemic, with specific emphasis on how the Casey House archives offers a different perspective of this part of our history – one that deviates from the common visual representations that we see in public media formats such as photojournalism, film, and contemporary art.
Melissa meticulously organized and catalogued the hospital’s collection of over 13,000 items spanning from 1987 to 2014. These range from memory books, newspapers, DVDs/CDs, event catalogues, annual reports, loose photos, and more. Most notably, over 1,190 photographs were digitized into an accessible format. These images uncover the rich history of our organization. They span through numerous past events such as Art With Heart, DQ, galas, Laughing Matters, Pride, and other fundraisers. Additionally, these images recognize the vast community of people who have uplifted Casey House throughout the years. From staff, volunteers, and drag performers, to celebrities both local and international, and of course, our lead founder June Callwood. Between day-to-day operations and large-scale events, there is rarely a dull moment at Casey House.
Photographs of staff and clients dressed up in Halloween costumes, Christmas decorations and gift swaps, and even summer barbecues are pictured throughout the collection. These are shared experiences that many of us can relate to. While looking at these photographs, it’s easy to forget that you’re looking at a hospital’s archive and not a family photo album. The image content depicted in the photographs help humanize this institutional collection, where one would expect to see images that are more clinical and sterile, as opposed to the warm and family-like photographs found throughout the Casey House archives.
–Melissa Bessie, archival resident, “Casey House Archives: A Report of Findings”
Thank you to Melissa Bessie for her phenomenal work! This newly revitalized archive will be a great asset as we continue to reflect and build upon Casey House’s story. We are grateful to all our supporters throughout the years who have contributed to Casey House’s legacy of compassionate care for those living with and at risk of HIV. Check out our Instagram account, where we have been sharing photos from our archives each week as a part of a #ThrowbackThursday series.