Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New digital archive preserves LGBT history

by Joe Siegel

A new digital archive is making LGBT history accessible to students and faculty at colleges and universities all over the country, in addition to public libraries in major cities such as New York and Seattle.

The first phase covers gay history and culture since 1940 and already comprises about 1.5 million pages of searchable content.

The archive spotlights the experiences of not just the LGBT community as a whole, but of individuals of different races, ethnicities, ages, religions, political orientations, and geographical locations that constitute the community.

“There's a wealth of information,” said Liz Mason, Vice President of Product for Gale, a library resource provider which also publishes e-books and print books.

Under the title the Archives of Human Sexuality and Identity, the company has partnered with the New York Public Library, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and other collection-holders around the country.

Historical records of political and social organizations founded by LGBT individuals are featured, as well as publications by and for lesbians and gays, and extensive coverage of governmental responses to the AIDS crisis.

The archive features materials from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, in addition to activist groups such as the spiritually oriented Q Spirit forum and the Southern California Council on Religion.

The archive includes records of the Gay Activists Alliance, an organization founded after 1969’s Stonewall Riots, and ACT UP, a group founded in 1987 in response to the AIDS crisis. The archive also contains extensive records of the largest British LGBT rights groups during the 1970s, the Committee for Homosexual Equality in England and the Scottish Minorities Group in Scotland.

Collections from the Lesbian Herstory Archives include mainstream and alternative publications from 1970 to 2008. 
The archive also contains personal correspondence and interviews with numerous LGBT individuals. The archive includes gay and lesbian newspapers from more than 35 countries as well as reports, policy statements, and other documents related to gay rights and health, including the worldwide impact of AIDS, materials tracing LGBT activism in Britain from 1950 through 1980, and more.

The archive also encompasses extensive materials related to feminism, women’s rights, and women’s concerns. The Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin: Beyond the Daughters of Bilitis Collection, for example, includes documents related to Lyon and Martin’s groundbreaking book on domestic violence and their work with the National Organization for Women (NOW).

The second part of the archive, which is due for completion in March 2017, will cover LGBT history from the 17th century.

“We have millions and millions of pages,” Mason added. “We have a group of advisors, academics, and librarians who are giving us lots of great input.”


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