Looking Back with Pride

Members of the Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus at the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade, c. 1976. Photo by Bari Lee Weaver.

Members of the Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus at the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade, c. 1976. Photo by Bari Lee Weaver.

LGBT History Project earns accolades from national organization

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

An archival project with Dickinson connections has earned national recognition from the country’s oldest and most prestigious archivists’ association. Launched by the LGBT Center of Central PA in partnership with Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections, the LGBT History Project was recently awarded the Society of American Archivists' (SAA) J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award, which recognizes individuals or groups for “promoting greater public awareness, appreciation or support of archives."

The award will be presented in early August, during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Past recipients include the Chicago Tribune, Kraft Foods, U.S. Senator Harry Reid and Arizona State University.

The award-winning archive compiles video interviews, photos, news clippings and other artifacts that document the history of the region's LGBT-rights movement. At the suggestion of Professor Emerita Lonna Malmsheimer, Dickinson archivists came on board to help curate, catalog and preserve the fast-growing collection. 

Special Collections Librarian Malinda Triller-Doran, the library’s liaison to the women’s & gender studies department, came to the project after spearheading the launch of the Women’s Experiences at Dickinson digital collection. Because the LGBT History Project, like the Women's Experiences collection, brings often-unheard stories to light, she was eager to take it on.

“I’ve seen the power of the connections that students make when they encounter firsthand accounts of individuals who have dealt with the same issues and questions they are working through themselves,” she said. And to bring selections of the collection to the public, she worked with student-intern Mana Shaw '14, a women's & gender studies major, to curate an exhibit for display on the first floor of the Waidner-Spahr Library.

Shaw loved leafing through the flyers, newsletters, press clips, photos and other memorabilia offering tangible links to significant events, such as a large, early-'90s protest in Washington, D.C. “These artifacts are important because they’re part of history and because they show us that the local lesbian and gay community was very visible,” she said. “They also show us how much times have changed and how much progress we’ve made over the years.”

“It’s all about connecting with people,” Triller-Doran added. “The LGBT Center’s project demonstrates initiative in helping to address a historical gap, and I think the SAA Advocacy award recognizes that initiative.”

Read news coverage by Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Philadelphia Gay News, PennLive.com, TheBurg and the Society of American Archivists.

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Published August 4, 2014