The LGBT Center of Central PA History Project is marking its 10th anniversary in August with the unveiling of an extensive digital archive for the public that opens a window on LGBTQ+ history in central Pennsylvania. The Project, which can be explored online, is a collaboration between Dickinson College’s Archives and Special Collections and the LGBT Center of Central PA.
“We have spent about 10 years collecting an amazing array of material that documents this history, and we want to share it with everyone who is interested in seeing it. Now this digitization initiative has made that possible,” said Barry Loveland, chair of the LGBT History Project.
Since June 2020, archivist Sarah Wakefield has been busy scanning documents, attaching descriptive information known as metadata, and processing historical collections that illuminate the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. This is no typical college collection. It contains the history of local LGBTQ+ organizations, individual activists, special events, publications, bars and businesses that document the life of a community that for many people is mostly invisible.
Thanks to grant funding and the work of Wakefield and Special Collections Librarian Malinda Triller-Doran, who is supervising the project, people all over the world will now have a window into the central PA LGBTQ+ community through the digitization of documents, historical photographs and images of artifacts in the collection.
“I am really excited to see the incredible progress that Sarah and Malinda have made in making this collection easily accessible to researchers, students and the general public,” Loveland said.
The digital archive provides full-text access to hundreds of documents created by individuals and organizations in areas of Pennsylvania such as Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Williamsport and York. These documents include newsletters, programs, organizational minutes and reports, oral histories and publicity materials. Examples include more than 20 years of the “Lavender Letter,” a newsletter for lesbians distributed out of Harrisburg; posters from Altland’s Ranch, a popular gay bar in Spring Grove in York County; issues of the “Lancaster Gay Era” magazine; programs from the Lily White and Co. drag troupe; and outreach materials created by the religious organizations Dignity/Central PA and the Metropolitan Community Church.
Staff, student interns, volunteers and classes have already been making use of the digital collections to create digital exhibits to tell stories on various themes of LGBTQ+ history in central Pennsylvania. The History Project's digital exhibit website, https://www.centralpalgbthistory.org/, is currently home to ten digital exhibits with four more in development.
About the LGBT History Project
The LGBT History Project began in 2012 and is a collaborative community archives effort to preserve the stories and history of LGBTQ+ people and activism in central Pennsylvania. In 2014, the LGBT Center of Central PA in Harrisburg and Dickinson’s Archives & Special Collections established a partnership in the initiative. The project is the fastest growing collection housed at Dickinson and one of the most frequently used. It currently includes approximately 150 video interviews and historical materials contributed by about 100 donors. The documents include written accounts, photographs, and artifacts, with items dating from the 1940s through the present day.
These materials address political activism, discrimination, religious life, the local response to HIV/AIDS, gay bar life and transgender advocacy.
In 2014, the LGBT History Project won the prestigious J. Franklin Jameson Archival Advocacy Award from the Society of American Archivists.
In 2022, the Project received the Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Forrest C. Pogue Award for outstanding and continuing contributions to oral history.
This digital archive was made possible with a Historical & Archival Records Care Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), grants from the Schlegel-Deibler Charitable Foundation, an NEH CARES Act grant, and donations to the LGBT Center.
Published July 28, 2022