Queen's LGBTQ+ Archives aim to preserve historical records

Archivist explains importance of record-keeping

Archivists preserve LGBTQ+ stories.
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In the fifty years following the Stonewall riots, the LGBTQ+ community has been advocating for acceptance. Some Queen’s archivists want to make sure those steps aren’t forgotten. 
 
Since 2012, the University Archives have been preserving Kingston area’s LGBTQ+ history through collecting and recovering relevant documents and artifacts from 1970-2010.
 
These records include personal and institutional records relating to social and political events, with organizations like Queen’s Homophile Association, Club Vogue, and Red Emma’s contributing to the collection.
 
According to the KLGBT Archive project charter, material reflecting gay and lesbian life has been scant. 
 
Records of same-sex relationships were often destroyed for security reasons, and when they weren’t, families frequently stepped in to “expunge the evidence,” thus, making “coming out” and growing up extremely difficult, the archive charter stated. 
 
While LGBTQ+ archives do exist in larger cities, like Toronto, the problem mostly lies with how smaller communities decide to implement these projects, according to the project charter. 
 
The charter suggests regional records of gay and lesbian life in Canada are “almost nonexistent.” 
 
Janice McAlpine, archivist coordinator for the project, wrote in an email to The Journal that she and her colleague Renee Van Weringh came up with the idea of putting together the archive in 2011. 
 
“Our friends were getting older and downsizing. We knew they might start tossing their keepsakes in the recycle bin, and if they didn’t, when they died, their relatives would,” she said. 
 
As a way to preserve these records, McAlpine and Weringh proposed the creation of the KLGBTQ Archive to Queen’s Archives, and archivist Heather Home joined in on the project.
 
McAlpine said the pair approached LGBTQ+ people they knew for donations of documents, minutes, newsletters, articles, posters, tickets, and photos that documented events and organizations important to Kingston’s queer history. 
 
McAlpine added it’s important these records remain in Kingston, as there are not many records publicly available about the LGBTQ+ community. 
 
According to McAlpine, the archive represents “the steps queer people in Kingston took to find each other, to create a social space, to entertain each other, to make art, to find sex, to find love, to make families, to have the right to work without being closeted, to challenge discrimination.”
 
She also explained the archives serve as a way for LGBTQ+ people to know there’s a record of their local community, and unlike in the past, lives will not be erased from the official record.
 
McAlpine said the long-term impact of the archive depends on how Canadian society changes over time and 
whether the status of sexual and gender minorities becomes more secure or more precarious. 
 
“For now, LGBTQ people know someone is interested in their story, and that is affirmative,” she said. 
 
The KLGBT archive can be accessed in Kathleen Ryan Hall, but it’s still being processed as more material becomes available over time. While certain parts of the collection are under closure for a set period of time, much of the material provided by local organizations is open to the public. 
 
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