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Archivist as activist: lessons from three queer community archives in California

Abstract

California is home to multiple queer community archives created by community members outside of government, academic, and public archives. These archives are maintained by the communities and are important spaces not only for the preservation of records, but also as safe spaces to study, gather, and learn about the communities’ histories. This article describes the histories of three such queer community archives (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society Lavender Library, Archives, and Cultural Exchange of Sacramento, Inc.; and ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives) in order to discuss the role of activism in the community archives and implications for re-examining the role of activism to incorporate communities into the heart of archival professional work. By understanding the impetus for creating and maintaining queer community archives, archivists can use this knowledge to foster more reflective practices to be more inclusive in their archival practices through outreach, collaboration, and descriptive practices. This article extends our knowledge of community archives and provides evidence for the need to include communities in archival professional practice.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    FTM is the initialism for female-to-male and denotes “the direction of gender crossing” (Stryker 2008, p. 21).

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Acknowledgments

This article reports on the findings from part of the first author’s thesis, which was greatly supported by her supervisors from Queensland University of Technology (Dr. Christine Bruce and Dr. Helen Partridge) and San José State University (Dr. Debra L. Hansen). The writing of this article was made possible through a Writing for Publication scholarship from Queensland University of Technology. Queensland Ethics Clearance #1000000280.

Author information

Correspondence to Diana K. Wakimoto.

Appendix: Interview guide

Appendix: Interview guide

Biographical information

  • What is your name and age?

  • Please tell me about yourself.

  • Can you please tell me about how you came to work in this area? What interested you in the archives?

Involvement in community archives

  • How did you come to be involved in the archives?

  • How long have you been involved with the archives?

  • When was this archives started?

  • Why was the archives created?

  • Why did the community start this archives instead of depositing materials in an institutional archives, such as at a university?

  • How was the archives created? Who was first involved in the creation of the archives?

  • How is the archives funded and staffed?

  • What changes have you seen in the development of the archives?

  • What kinds of materials does the archives collect?

  • How do you decide what materials to add to the archives?

  • What are the most important collections in the archives?

  • What standards do you use in the description of the collections/creating of the finding aids?

  • How did you decide on the format of the finding aids and the content of the description?

  • What about the archives is important to you? To the community?

  • How do you define the community that the archives serves?

  • How does the community use the archives?

  • What collections get used the most by the community members?

  • How do you get the community involved in the archives?

Other community projects that relate to community history

  • Have you been involved in any other community-based projects?

  • Does the archives collaborate with other organizations on community-based projects?

  • Do you know of any other projects or programs relating to the community’s history and culture?

Other people/archives to contact

  • Do you know of any other archives similar to your community’s archives?

  • If you were doing these interviews about the history of the community archives, who would you interview?

  • Is there anything else that we did not cover that you would like to add?

  • If a person knew nothing about the archives, what would you tell her/him?

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Wakimoto, D.K., Bruce, C. & Partridge, H. Archivist as activist: lessons from three queer community archives in California. Arch Sci 13, 293–316 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-013-9201-1

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Keywords

  • Archival activism
  • Archives
  • Community engagement
  • GLBT
  • LGBT
  • Queer community archives