64 Parishes

Fall 2018

An Archival Collective Safeguards LGBT+ History

Published: August 28, 2018
Last Updated: June 12, 2019

An Archival Collective Safeguards LGBT+ History

BreakOUT! Records, Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff Library Special Collections, Newcomb College Institute, Tulane University

Portrait from the “Know Your Rights” photo shoot, hosted by BreakOUT! Photo by Rush Jagoe

Since 2013, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana has worked to spotlight local institutions’ archival material related to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities. Early on, project organizers decided against opening a single dedicated repository devoted to LGBT+ history in favor of operating as a collective, directing potential donors, researchers, and members of the public to any organization with relevant holdings “who we think would be a good fit,” according to Frank Perez, who serves as president of the project. Since 2016, The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) has served as repository for materials related to the collective’s internal operation.

Through a wide array of fundraising and public programming, the LGBT+ Archives Project seeks to “get our history out of the closet,” Perez said. In May 2015 it hosted a personal archiving workshop, providing information on the preservation and storage of collections of personal papers. The collective maintains a detailed bibliography of LGBT+ resources as well a listing of local repositories with related holdings. Other outreach efforts have included meet-and-greet events designed to educate members of the archival community about the mission of the organization, marching in the annual Gay Easter Parade in New Orleans, participation in both New Orleans and Baton Rouge Pride events, and potluck fundraisers.

Each year, typically in the fall, the Archives Project hosts its Oracle Gala, which honors an individual, group, or organization that has donated LGBT-related material to a local repository. The 2018 honorees will be the founders of Southern Decadence, whose archive is now housed at Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection.

The collective’s organizational archive, housed at THNOC, comprises email records, archived versions of the group’s webpage and Facebook page, fliers, copies of meeting agendas and minutes, and copies of the articles of incorporation. In addition to serving as repository, THNOC also hosted an event in June, in conjunction with the Archives Project, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the UpStairs Lounge arson attack. The attack, which remains the deadliest fire in the history of New Orleans, claimed the lives of thirty-two patrons of the UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar located at 604 Iberville Street.