Success and Challenges of Queer Archives

Authors: Julian Barr*, University of Washington
Topics: Sexuality, Gender, Historical Geography
Keywords: lesbian, historical, queer, archival, oral histories, LGBTQ
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


My recent archival work has been focused on both my dissertation project and a related story-mapping project. The dissertation attempts to examine the historical geography of lesbian and queer women in mid-Twentieth Century Seattle. Historical narratives about lesbians broadly in the United Sates but few spatially specific case studies dominate the literature and additionally we have many narratives about the LGBTQ community as a whole. In several pieces of work limited archives is the reasoning behind a stronger focus on white gay male history. There are merits to this argument in some cases, however that fails to see the possibilities of some archives and this can be driven on how we approach archives. Using archival methods, the dissertation project describes the experiences of lesbian and queer women’s lives and places in Seattle in the mid-Twentieth Century. However, the dissertation has faced challenges but also success by only using archival data. On the other hand the archives have enhanced a related story-mapping project, which examines the queer history of a Seattle neighborhood, and I have found a way to bring the archive to a wider public. This paper presents preliminary findings and how the use of archived oral histories have shaped the dissertation project and how archives were used in a queer historical story map.

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