Friday, 31 August 2012

Upcoming LGBT History Club events at LMA

London Metropolitan Archives, 40, Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB (except for 7 November – see below)

Moral Maze
Wednesday 5 September

Documents reflecting moral values and attitudes to behaviour will be available to explore with discussion to follow. From blackmailers and the scrutiny of the Public Morality Council to a recent work on 'Friendship between Gay Men and Heterosexual Women’.

Ajamu Presents…(title TBC)
Wednesday 3 October

As part of Black History Month, photographer and artist Ajamu will present on his work recording Black LGBT people, discuss his forthcoming exhibition, Fierce, at Guildhall Art Gallery and recount his adventures on his 19 day walk from London to Huddersfield to raise funds for the artwork.

The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive at Bishopsgate Institute
Wednesday 7 November

London Metropolitan Archives is closed for stocktaking and LGBT History Club is on a trip to the Bishopsgate to find out more about LAGNA and its work.
NB MEET AT Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate City of London, EC2M 4QH

Launch of Gateway to Heaven
Wednesday 5 December

Clare Summerskill has gathered memories form older lesbians and gay men and brought them together as a collection of personal histories. Join us for the celebration launch of the book, a chance to talk about the value of personal histories and maybe a pre-holiday visit to the pub afterwards!

Can't wait for these events, a really great range. The LMA LGBT History Club is really kicking off now with a consistent turn out and great content and discussions!

MA finished!

My MA is finished!

My dissertation is entitled 'A feminine touch: seeking an understanding of the potential for using women's archive collections for outreach'. I also submitted a placement report for my time in the IOE Archives working with the NUWT collection. I made a small online exhibition about part of the collection here.

It's been such a great MA (Museums and Galleries in Education at the IOE) and has opened many doors for me (including the PhD). My PhD starts on the 29th September, but before then I have the GEM conference, and a journal article to write- no rest for the wicked.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Brave New World? LMA conference



The Tenth Anniversary London Metropolitan Archives LGBT History and Archives Conference
Saturday February 16th 2013 at Guildhall in the City of London

The LMA are currently planning the Tenth Anniversary LGBT History and Archives Conference which is going to be on February 16th 2013 at Guildhall in the City of London. This is to coincide with Ajamu’s photographic portrait exhibition of young black LGBT artists, trend setters and people of influence called ‘Fierce’ which will be in Guildhall Art Gallery from 1 February to April 14th.

The title, ‘Brave New World?’ provides the opportunity to look at LGBT history / stories and culture in a variety of ways, identifying genuine progress made and considering retrograde steps. There is room for looking to the future and how heritage and cultural activity generated by formal institutions, community groups and individuals might continue to influence and bring about change.

If you would like to contribute to the day in any way through a:
TALK / PRESENTATION – e.g. on a topic, project work, professional practice
DISPLAY OR STALL - promoting / celebrating LGBT history / cultural activity
WORKSHOP/BREAKOUT SESSION – focused on the overarching theme of Brave New World?
Anything else you can think of…

Please email

Deadline for submissions 30 September 2012

The exhibition and the conference should be great, really looking forward to attending this!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library

I thought it would be useful (for me) to put some retrospective posts from my personal blog on here, just so that all of my LGBT stuff is in one place, but hopefully they might be of interest to others as well. I'll start with my rather peeved critique of an event held at the British Library on 9th February 2010 called '500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library', a talk by Dr Bart Smith hosted by Amy Lame.

Since 2005, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) History Month has been celebrated each February, and has hosted a modest scatter of events in cultural institutions to mark the occasion. Often these events seem more like a tick-box exercise than a thoughtfully considered celebration.

The British Library held a talk which was advertised as an introduction to and showcase of the wealth of LGBT materials held in its collections. The evening was hosted by well known radio and TV personality and out lesbian Amy Lamé and the presentation was conducted by reference librarian Bart Smith, a minor celebrity in his own right having appeared on University Challenge and Mastermind. He had been given a three month research break to develop a way of making 500 years worth of LGBT material at the library more accessible. His research had clearly been intense and thorough, but the parts of it he decided to share were indulgent and just-for-laughs, resulting in an uncomfortable and offensive camp “show-and-tell”, that was thin on substance but high on innuendos and enforced stereotypes.

The song that played as paying guests entered the lecture theatre was ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man after Midnight)’ by Abba, and among the items highlighted was a great deal of pornographic material, same-sex erotica in fiction and a map of cottaging spots in London. There was no mention of AIDs, little mention of the legalisation of homosexuality or gay rights movements like Stonewall , and not even a reference to Section 28.

If you didn’t go, you didn’t miss much apart from seeing a manuscript where the word “pooff” first appeared and some fairly bland newspaper articles (which are available online anyway and can be accessed through most good universities) the talk should have been about promoting the massive wealth of unique material, giving an overview of the breadth of it and explaining how it can be accessed and used to educate. Instead it was a flamboyant pantomime of cocks and innuendoes.

It was followed by a question and answer session, but me and my friend Jess left during it, as we had already found the evening sufficiently offensive.

While it is difficult to begrudge the British Library’s attempt to highlight the LGBT related items in its collections in the context of LGBT History week, their attempt could hardly be applauded.

Friday, 17 August 2012

WE EXIST! new LGF publication

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation has launched a new publication, which is available online as a PDF entitled WE EXIST! which aims to inform LGBT people how they can get involved in their local community, whether at work, in education, sport, faith, health & wellbeing, housing, policing and politics, and be an ‘LGB Community Champion’.

In their e-newsletter, they say: 'Often the issues that directly affect the lesbian, gay and bisexual community may go unheard or un-addressed, unless there is an active voice around the table that is championing the needs of our community.'

I think this is really interesting, as in order for any community to be heard, it needs champions at the forefront. There really should be an LGBT presence in all of the issues mentioned above, and unless there is, often matters relating specifically to LGBT people become overlooked.

As I'm currently thinking about my presentation at the GEM conference, which looks at 'making the case' my argument is going to move beyond that, and say that the people pushing for LGBT and queer histories to be included in museums and other cultural and heritage sites are more often than not LGBT people, in order for these approaches to be fully adopted in earnest, we need straight allies and champions who believe in a more genuine form of inclusion as well, no community can break barriers in isolation, it needs people from outside of those communities to show an interest and actively support the cause.

It's a great publication, so do check it out. More information about the project can be found here.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Group for Education in Museums Conference 2012

GEM Conference 2012
Making the Case: the value of heritage education
4-6 September 2012, Exeter

'This year’s GEM conference focuses on making a compelling case for heritage education in these challenging times – one that stands up to rigorous scrutiny – by helping heritage management and education professionals explore, identify and articulate the unique value of heritage education, and the positive impacts it has on a wide variety of audiences.'

On Thursday 6th September, I will be running a breakout session. The theme of the day is 'How to make the case' and my session is called 'Making our cultural practice more genuinely inclusive: queer and feminist approaches'.

You can see the full programme here. UPDATED 17th August 2012
Booking forms and more information can be found here.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

LGBTI ALMS Conference 2012, Amsterdam

From 1-3 August, the fourth LGBTI Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections conference took place at the Amsterdam Public Library, home to IHLIA (international gay/lesbian library, archive, information and documentation centre about homosexuality and sexual diversity).

This was my first ever visit to Amsterdam, and I was bowled over by how queer-friendly it is, the Central Station walls were adorned with huge posters about Pride and almost every canal bridge was lined with Pride flags. London could learn an awful lot from Amsterdam.

The conference took place in the most beautiful public library I have ever seen. Perhaps the difference between Amsterdam and the UK was most stark because of this, public libraries here are often quite grim, and certainly don't have the money to do anything about it, but this library was huge, clean, stylish, modern and the restaurant on the 7th floor resembled the food hall in Selfridges- but nicer. There was a piano on the ground floor, which seasoned pianists were encouraged to play (with light fingers) and the result was surprisingly unintrusive and only added to the ambience. Jan Pimblett (from London Metropolitan Archives) described the library as 'John Lewis for the brain' which I thought was quite apt.

A great feature was on the sixth floor, home of IHLIA, these pink shelves, or 'Rose Kast' represent a project by IHLIA to advocate for a pink collection (LGBT books and films) in every Public Library in the Netherlands.

The format of the conference was quite intense, with four keynotes each of the three days and then several ten minute papers followed by breakout sessions to discuss issues raised further. This was a very democratic way of allowing as many speakers to present as possible, and also to allow everyone to hear all of the speakers.
I'm not going to report on all of the papers, as most of them are available on the conference blog , but I will highlight a few of them that stood out for me.

IHLIA, as a collection, was reconstructed following world war two, the original was half self-destroyed and the rest was seized by the Germans. The collection now recieves 300,000 Euros subsidy per year by the Dutch government, and aims to give a face to the emancipation of gay people.

E. G. Crichton, Artist-in-Residence at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco shared with us some of the work she had done with the archive collection, and looking at ways art practice and creativity can play a role in archives, how memories can be made tangible. She spoke of a particularly interesting project where she paired living LGBT people with people whose collections lived at the GLBT Historical society and asked them to interpret the material, she also produced portraits where images of the living and the dead were seen together. See more about her work here.

Pawel Leszkowicz spoke of his work curating Ars Homoerotica at the National Museum of Poland, I have heard him speak before at the Tate Modern, I won't say much now, I will dedicate a future  blog post to his work, but you can read his paper here.

James Miller and David DeAngelis spoke about their work with the Pride Library, and the Closet Library collection. Based in Western University in Canada, the Pride Library occupies a dedicated space in the main library. The Closet Library is a collection of gay pulp fiction, found in the basement of a collector whose family did not want his identity to be known, hence the name of the collection. The Library students at the University help with scanning covers and cataloguing the material, more can be found here. PhD student Danielle Cooper has done some really interesting research about the Pride Library as Place for queer people, her full thesis can be found here.

Independent scholar Agnieszka Weseli, who specialises in the history of sexuality, women and queer history, spoke of archives as a tool of social change, and where non-heteronormatives fit into history. She said that history gives the possibility of rebellion, and that famous people are often outed as part of the discourse of patriotism, "deviants" who don't fit squarely with general impressions of sexuality and gender, might be overlooked in this. She is working with a grassroots organisation in Poland, and I look forward to the prospect of collaborating with her in the future.

Angela Brinskele and Jamey Fitzpatrick are doing great work with the Mazer Lesbian Archives at UCLA, they are both so positive and full of innovative ideas for sharing the work they do, by engaging with social networking/media, oral histories and by creating their own merchandise to promote the archives. Their papers are here and here, I hope to get the chance to visit the Mazer archives some time.

Gabriel Khan from GALA in South Africa, presented a fascinating talk about the role of the archive as a vessel for memory, I was particularly interested in this as there were many echoes with my own research for my MA dissertation about women's archive collections. He said that a community archive should be necessarily politicised, and that the archive is a place for unpacking and repackaging memory, where the archivist must be facilitator for this. He also said that memories can't always be captured and instead are experiential, memories and stories can be (and should be) channeled into something positive that helps a community.

Topher Campbell spoke about Rukus! which I was already aware of, he spoke with great passion about an incredibly radical collection, that benefited from being run by himself as an entertainer, and Ajamu X a photographer. I hope to be able to engage with this great collection during my research.

Richard Parkinson from the British Museum was another highlight, but I will write a dedicated blog post about his phenomenal work in the future. It was a real pleasure to meet Richard, and to share ideas in our joint break-out session.

Jan Pimblett, an archives outreach pioneer (and friend) from London Metropolitan Archives spoke passionately about the LGBT History Club at the LMA, I will be posting more about upcoming events on this blog soon.

Suzie Day, a Library school student from Western Australia gave some tips about making school and public libraries more inviting to the LGBTI community even when there is no extra funding available. Many of her ideas were very simple, but would never have occurred to me, she stressed that libraries can provide a service that others can't and used her personal experiences to demonstrate this. Things as simple as having LGBTI related posters and community publications in the library, taking part in Pride and engaging with social networks, would make these environments safer, and more inclusive spaces for queer youngsters. The paper can be found here.

My paper was well recieved, and it was a pleasure to present it to so many experts in the field. It will be available online shortly, I will post on the blog when it is available to be read. As thanks to all of the speakers, IHLIA gave us a pair of same-sex porceline figurines, it's a contemporary twist on the classic Delft blue kissing boy and girl doll, such a great souvenir to take home with me!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Brief update about LGBTI ALMS conference and useful links page

I returned from the LGBTI ALMS 2012 conference in Amsterdam this morning, what a beautiful city, and what an empowering and inspirational conference. The range of speakers was vast, and the experiences and stories shared, invaluable. I look forward to writing a more in depth report once I have uploaded the photos I took while I was there. In the mean time, many of the papers are available to be read on the conference blog, mine will be on there shortly.

I decided that a good way to keep track of many of the great work going on in the UK and beyond was to begin compiling a list of links to various websites, you can find the beginnings of this to the right under 'Useful links index', this is very much a work in progress, and so far just contains links relating to the LGBTI ALMS conference, there will be more to come more widely, but I will pick away at it as and when I can, I hope eventually the page itself will become a valuable resource that I hope to keep up to date. Needless to say, I will tidy up the page a bit when I get the chance as well. Any suggestions for pages I could add to it will be gratefully received.

I hope to post something more comprehensive about the conference on Monday, but until then, the warmest thanks to the organisers and hosts at IHLIA and I hope the conference is the start of a great worldwide collaborative family working diligently towards a brighter future for the histories of LGBTI communities.