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It was founded in December 2004. Its first pilot program, an exhibit of art by HIV-positive artists entitled "Eyes of Mercy", was held from November 11 through December 1, 2006 at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. The second exhibit was held in March 2007 at Red Saw Art Gallery in Newark, NJ. The AIDS Museum also co-organized an exhibit entitled "Edge of Light: Art in the Age of AIDS" at the Paul Robeson Center Gallery at Rutgers Newark, which ran from July 2007 until December 2007. December 2007 has been a busy month for the AIDS Museum. George Mason University in Virginia also hosted a photographic exhibit by artist Kathy Seward Mackay called "Dying in Vein" about AIDS in the hemophilia community. In addition, artist Nicole Margaretten's sculpture "Roasting the Virus: An Eternal Flame dedicated to those affected by HIV/AIDS" as well as a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were displayed at New School University in New York City. Finally, the World Culture Open Gallery (also in New York) was the site of a collaborative project called "Positive Still: Artists Respond to AIDS" featuring, among other artwork, five pieces from the AIDS Museum's permanent collection. The next exhibit "Lifework" will be hosted at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, NJ in January 2008.
The mission statement of the organization is:
- "The AIDS Museum will be America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of the AIDS pandemic. The mission of the Museum will be to advance and disseminate knowledge about AIDS, to preserve the memory of those who have died and continue to suffer, and to encourage visitors to reflect upon the medical, political, and humanitarian questions raised by the AIDS pandemic. The Museum will have an inspirational tone, highlighting the ways in which people have come together through organizations to creatively address the range of social and health care issues raised by the pandemic."
While there are AIDS memorials, exhibits, and artwork in the United States, the AIDS Museum in Newark will be the first institution of its kind in the country.