Celebrating pride through oral history

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By Andrew Shaffer

In recognition of Pride Month, we’re looking at some of the many oral history projects focused on preserving the memories of LGBTQ communities. The LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory is connecting archives across North America to produce a digital hub for the research and study of LGBTQ oral histories. The University of Chicago is cataloguing the history of students, faculty, and alumni for its “Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles” project. The University of Wisconsin – Madison continues to collect the histories of Madison’s LGBT Community, and has even prepared mini-movies to make the materials more accessible.

The current issue of the Oral History Review includes reviews of two recent projects that offer innovative uses of oral histories to tell the stories of LGBTQ communities. Lindsay Hager offers an in depth review of the 2012 documentary United in Anger: A History of ACT UP. The documentary chronicles the development of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), relying extensively on the materials preserved in the Act Up Oral History Project. Hager’s review is accessible in the current issue of the Oral History Review.

Liam Lair offers a review of Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers by Anne Balay. Lair puts the book into the context of the current “it gets better” narrative, suggesting the world looks very different from the position of working class LGBTQ communities and communities of color. Drawing on extensive oral histories with working class LGBTQ individuals, the book offers a critical contextualization of the progress currently shaping discourses around LGBTQ communities. Lair’s review of Steel Closets can be read in the current issue of Oral History Review, while the book is available for purchase.

And now for something completely different…

Registration recently opened up for the 2015 Oral History Association Annual Meeting in Tampa! You’ve got until August to register for early bird pricing, so make sure you get your tickets ASAP.

We’d love to hear about other LGBTQ focused oral history projects. Chime into the discussion by commenting below or on the Oral History Review Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and G+ pages.

Image Credit: “2012 06 09 – 0708 – DC – Capital Pride Parade” by Bossi. CC BY NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.