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House proud: an ethnography of the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives

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Abstract

Located in the Vancouver apartment of gay liberation activist and retired professional librarian Ron Dutton, the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives continues to be a major repository of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) historical materials in British Columbia, Canada, after 40 years of activity. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork to examine the motivations behind, perceptions of and activities associated with maintaining the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives as a “semipublic” organization that provides archival services for the public in a private home. By creating a textured account of the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives as a home-based organization, this paper articulates an LGBT, community-based approach to archiving. The findings demonstrate that locating an archives in a private home involves a constant negotiation between issues of the public/private divide of what is considered accessible and inaccessible, sustainable and unsustainable, safe and unsafe. This article also articulates how home-based archiving more broadly challenges the divide between personal and institutional archives and contributes to scholarship pertaining to personal, autonomous, grassroots and social movement archives.

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Acknowledgments

This article was made possible due to my informants, who generously provided their knowledge, time and support of this project. Thank you also to Dr. David Murray (York University), Ela Przybylo (York University) and Ariel Leutheusser (University of Toronto) and the anonymous peer reviewers for their critical engagement with the piece.

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Correspondence to Danielle Cooper.

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Cooper, D. House proud: an ethnography of the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives. Arch Sci 16, 261–288 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-015-9250-8

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