Current Project Update: Queer Archives Survey

I’m back from vacation, and so it’s time for an update! One of the things I want to write about here is my research projects. The current project is research on Queer archives that I’m working on with my friend and colleague Evie1. This is a project I’ve been thinking about since my internship last summer, and which I mentioned briefly before. Evie is a recent addition but she has been an absolute godsend and is helping me finally move forward in logical and measured ways. She’s terribly well organized and is really helping me shape my thoughts on this project, as well as keeping us moving forward steadily. I’m really happy to have hit upon her as a co-author for this project, and we have many fun confabs about the project.

So what is this project? In a nutshell what I’m doing is a large-scale nationwide survey about how large institutional archives, such as those at state universities and state historical societies, are acquiring, managing, cataloging, and promoting their LGBTQ materials. Most archives have some sort of LGBTQ content in them, since LGBTQ people are a part of everyday life. However, not all archives mark their collections as LGBTQ in any way, or promote them with that lense, or in any way engage with that aspect of the collection. Some do in limited ways, and others have whole dedicated collections to them. What we want to do is build a survey to see how these differences are spread across the US. What percentage of archives are engaging with their LGBTQ materials, vs what percentage are simply burying them? Where are the silences happening, and how are they being perpetuated? How are the ones who do use their collections making them discoverable to the average user, and how are the ones who don’t obscuring them? We’re asking questions about meta-data, programming, collection policies, and more.

But why is this research important? Well, first because as far as I have been able to find, nobody has ever done a large-scale study of this sort before (if you know of one please PLEASE send it to me, I want to read it for reference!). People have written about silences in the archives, such as Rodney Carter in 2006 2 (though his article has its own problems). But these are mostly anecdotal, without any true quantitative data to back it up. I want to provide the quantitative data of what is happening around Queer archives now, in 2023, because only then can we figure out what the actual problem is. We need to get our arms more fully around the problem with a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data points before we can do anything about it.

So that’s the current project. We are almost ready to start sending the survey itself out and begin collecting data, and that’s very exciting. But even more exciting is the various opportunities to talk about this that we are pursuing in the next several month. When or if those come to fruition, I will be sure to post about them here!

  1. Updating to link to Evie’s research blog!
  2. Carter, R. G. S. (2006). Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence. Archivaria, 61(September), 215–233.

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