Category: day 1

Speaker spotlight: Helen Kennedy

Generating Archival Stories around Same-Sex Marriage in Canada 

Helen Kennedy is a Canadian politician and social activist. Born in Ireland, Helen moved to Canada as a young adult and became involved in campaigning for workplace safety and equality through her work as editor of the Industrial Accident Prevention Association magazine. In 1985, she was hired by the Ontario New Democratic Party and served the party for fourteen years in opposition and government. During that time, Helen founded the East York Tenants’ Association, which lobbied for rent controls and tenant rights. She also established Citizens for Access, an awareness campaign to open up public buildings to people with disabilities. Today Helen is executive director of Egale Canada Human Rights Trust (ECHRT). ECHRT was founded in 1986 and is Canada’s only national charity promoting LGBTQ+ human rights through research, education and community engagement. ECHRT aims to create a world free of all forms of discrimination. Helen will address the international theme of ALMS 2016 by sharing details of her work to ensure the experience of same-sex marriage in Canada has a meaningful archival presence.

Helen is speaking on day 1 of the conference

Screening: Umunthu

Umunthu (2013 / 30min): screening of documentary film about homosexuality in Malawi

Umunthu_poster Final_Final


Art and Global Health Center Africa (AGHCA – is very excited to be screening the film Umunthu at the ‘Without Borders’ conference. Umunthu was made by a young Malawian film maker, Mwizalero Nyirenda (Mwiza), as part of AGHCA’s Students With Dreams programme.

The topic of homosexuality in Malawi is highly contentious and complex. It is commonly described and widely perceived as a western cultural imposition – ‘un-African’, ‘un-Malawian’ and ‘un-Christian’. LGBTI people face discrimination in their daily lives- a recent study by Afrobarometer found that only 6 out of 100 Malawians would tolerate having a homosexual neighbour (far greater intolerance than any other group included in the study, such as people of different ethnicities and immigrants), and research by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation found only 2 of a sample of 24 health workers said they are not prejudiced against LGBTI people. Homosexual acts are criminalised, and a recent moratorium on arrests met a strong public backlash, triggering instances of targeted violence against the LGBTI community.

Against the perception of foreign imposition, Mwiza was moved to explore the topic of homosexuality through an African cultural lens – that of Umunthu, a Pan-African philosophical concept of humanity, often defined in the phrase, “I am because we are.” The film follows the journey of three young Malawians – the filmmaker and two friends who have opposing views on gay rights – as they explore the issue with experts and people in different parts of Malawi.

Umunthu has won the Sembene Ousmane prize at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and has been screened internationally at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Boston International Film Festival, Zanzibar International Film Festival, Harvard University and Boston University. It also won 4 awards at the first ever Malawian international film festival, Lilongwe Shorts in May 2015.

AGHCA has toured Umunthu around Malawian universities and other venues, to create a platform for discussion about homosexuality based around local concepts and values. We’re now shifting our programming to in depth workshops, applying the Umunthu philosophy and way of life to enable participants to reflect and engage on issues of stigma and discrimination, with a particular focus on LGBTI people. Ultimately the workshops aim to elicit empathy and bring awareness of our oneness as people.

Art and Global Health Center Africa is a small charity based in Zomba, Malawi. We believe in the transformative power of the arts for experiential learning, cross-cultural understanding, eliciting empathy and strengthening of community. We work to foster creative leadership and implement innovative arts-based health-oriented programmes that inspire and mobilise. Center programmes use collaboration to nurture healthy, empowered, open and active communities in Malawi.

The Umunthu film will be introduced by AGHCA’s Executive Director, Helen Todd.

Twitter: @aghcafrica1

The screening takes place on day 1 of the conference

Speaker spotlight: Bird La Bird


Queer Portrait of a Workhouse

In 2015 Bird created a performative lecture exploring both the history of St Martin’s Workhouse which once stood on the site of the National Portrait Gallery and to uncover the lives and experiences of LGBTI people who found themselves in workhouses or pauper institutions. The performance focuses on a number of queer individuals from the 18th and 19th century. The final part of the show focuses on “A Night in the Workhouse”. A Victorian scandal around queer goings on in the Lambeth Workhouse.

LGBT history often tells of the great and the good and the lives of the comfortable classes.  By contrast, this project platforms the lives of the Queer Poor and shows modern LGBT audiences that punishing the so-called underclass is nothing new and that rebellion, resistance and survival is in the DNA.

Bird la Bird

Bird la Bird is an artist who straddles comedy and performance art. She has been described as a Queer Pearly Queen and a Haute Couture Fishwife.

She has been creating ‘Queer People’s History Tours’ for the past 4 years and presented outings at the V&A, the NPG and the Wallace Collection. Her tours combine costume, comedy and gossip to explore history in a fun and entertaining way.  The material is hard hitting addressing homophobia, imperialism and class exploitation. Her starting point is to educate herself and find out what she’s not being told in official histories. Bird strongly believes that all histories have a queer angle.

Bird favours bold playful characters, bastardised Brechtian methods and satirical polemics. 

Bird is a long term associate artist with the Duckie collective, appearing in Copyright Christmas at the Barbican, Gay Shame and many other projects. Her solo shows and group pieces have been presented at the V&A, WOW! Festival Southbank, Queer Fringe Festival, Flare at BFI, NPG, Dixon’s Place NYC, Trashing Performance and Theatre Brut Vienna. Bird has also been a guest lecturer at Goldsmiths, Leeds University, Manchester Metropolitan University and San Francisco Art Institute.

Bird will be speaking on  day 1 of the conference

Speaker spotlight: Martin Pel

Gluck: Did She Really Wear That? 

This paper will explore the potential and complexities of using dress as evidence of lives lived. The artist Gluck (1895 – 1978) declared her lesbian identity through the dress she wore; masculine tailored garments, shirts with ties, ‘men’s’ shoes from Lobbs and her hair cropped short. In 1977 she donated a large collection of clothing to Brighton Museum.

The gift includes Tunisian menswear and two linen painter’s smocks, but the majority of the items comprise – perhaps surprisingly – ‘arty’ flowery dresses, and fashionable slightly bohemian women’s evening wear. Museum correspondence reveals that many items were her girlfriends, the journalist Edith Shackleton Heald (1885 – 1976). We know that a black bifurcated evening dress was made for Gluck in the 1930 was and subsequently enlarged. Gluck was shorter than Edith, but an examination of the garments suggests anomalies about who wore what.

In 1937 Gluck painted probably the most famous image of a lesbian relationship of her and her lover ‘wife’ Nesta Obermer . Entitled ‘Medallion’ Gluck called it the ‘YouWe’, re-enforcing the idea of conjoined lovers. Is the donation of dress to Brighton also a declaration of ‘YouWe’; of two lives lived as one?

The paper will also analyse Gluck’s style, derived from photographic evidence, and explore what rendered it apparently masculine, in the 1920s when ‘garconne’ styles were the height of chic. It will also ponder another 1930s dress, made for Gluck in the offices of French Vogue but which – to contemporary eyes – seems incongruous.

In 2017 these items will form part of an exhibition on Gluck at Brighton Museum, curated by myself and Professor Amy de la Haye (University of the Arts, London). We are also working closely with Diana Souhami, Gluck’s biographer, and cultural historian Elizabeth Wilson.

Martin will be speaking on day 1 of the  conference

Speaker spotlight: Polly J. Thistlethwaite

PT - 8M1K9990-200x300Documentary Theatrics: I Am My Own Wife’s Archival Deceptions

“Doug Wright’s 2004 Pulitzer and Tony winning I Am My Own Wife features one actor in a simple black dress embodying more than 30 characters, principally “Charlotte,” Berlin’s well-known transvestite, raconteur, and museum founder, and “Doug,” the playwright/researcher himself. The play is based on Wright’s personal encounter with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (1927-2002), and it bears the hallmarks of documentary theatre: insider eyewitness reporting, basis on actual people and events, reliance on oral history, and citation and display of evidence. Instead focusing on Charlotte von Mahlsdorf’s dramatized deficits of candor, as Wright does, we swivel the spotlight to scrutinize Wright’s dramatized archive and its correlate tangible archive. What becomes of documentary integrity when research and dramatic license collide?”

Polly J. Thistlethwaite (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Polly J. Thistlethwaite is Professor & Chief Librarian at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She organized the 2008 ALMS International GLBT Archives Conference and served on CUNY CLAGS Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Board of Directors (2004-2008). She was a Lesbian Herstory Archives collective member (1986-1997), and she has composed several works about GLBT archival history.


Twitter: @MissReadings

The Graduate Center, CUNY is the doctoral degree granting institution of the City University of New York.

Polly will be speaking on day 1 of the conference

Speakers spotlight: Studio Sam Causer, Carlos Maria Romero (Vividero Colectivo) and Susan Potter

Blushing Pavilion: An approach to engaging communities with queer archives

Blushing Pavilion


Vividero Colectivo artists and architect Sam Causer’s research focuses on the evolving role of the landscape and architecture of the English seaside – in the expression and repression of the body, gender and sexuality – with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ subjects. One outcome is Blushing Pavilion, a temporary intervention at a seafront shelter in Margate inspired by the town’s vibrant contribution to this aspect of the UK’s culture, featuring both historic archival material and contemporary artworks. In addition to an exhibition, a talk and film screening highlighted the relevance of this topic to Margate’s diverse communities.

This presentation will introduce Blushing Pavilion, its creative inception, production and learning outcomes, in terms of engaging community members with previously unexplored archival content. Importantly, it will reveal how Blushing Pavilion united both individuals and communities across boundaries through an innovative arts and heritage project, resulting in many longer-term impacts.


Carlos Maria Romero is a performance artist, pedagogue and curator. He is member of Vividero Colectivo, committed to the presentation of historically marginalised bodies and situations, as a type of political and cultural activism. 


Sam Causer is an academic, architect and activist at Studio Sam Causer, Margate. Pre-occupied with the everyday and the intimate, his work begins with the human mind, its habits and expectations, beliefs and responsibilities. 


Susan Potter has a background in cultural learning, with over 25 years’ experience of working with museums, galleries and arts organisations across the UK. She was independent research and evaluation consultant with HOME.












HOME in Cliftonville was a partnership project between Margate Arts Creativity Heritage (MACH) and Kent County Council (KCC), funded by Interreg as part of an Inter-regional Culture-led Regeneration (ICR) project, led by the University of Creative Arts. The HOME pilot project comprised seven new artist residencies and commissions taking place across Margate, Kent from July 2014 to March 2015. Positive outcomes for residents and visitors described in the evaluation included: increased social networks and sense of belonging; enhanced sense of community and civic pride; a greater awareness of Cliftonville’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.

Carlos, Sam and Susan will be speaking on day 1 of the conference

Speaker spotlight: Elizabeth L. Chapman

“Still the books aren’t there”: barriers to provision of LGBTQ* fiction for children and young people in English public librariesLCh - lizconference

“This paper reports on findings from doctoral research into the provision of LGBTQ* fiction to children and young people in English public libraries. The study found room for improvement in levels of provision at all the participating library authorities, and identified a number of factors that formed barriers to comprehensive, inclusive provision of LGBTQ* fiction for children and young people.

Library provision was constrained by the narrow range of items available in print in the UK, particularly for younger children. Furthermore, even where titles were available, the majority were not published by UK publishers and thus did not reach libraries through mainstream library suppliers. Due to the lack of awareness of the need for provision on the part of librarians, the large majority of participants did not endeavour to compensate for this by purchasing from specialist sources.

The paper will conclude with some practical suggestions for improving provision.”

Elizabeth L. Chapman (Liz)

LCh - liz_chapman


Liz recently completed her PhD on provision of LGBTQ* fiction to children and young people in English public libraries. She now divides her time between working for Sheffield Libraries, and lecturing in Education Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. She is Section Editor for Equality and Diversity for the Journal of Radical Librarianship, and previously edited Public Library Journal. As a bi woman, she has a strong commitment to LGBTQ* inclusion in libraries.

Twitter: @lgbtlibrarian


Liz will be speaking on day 1 of the conference

Speaker spotlight: Walter “Cat” Walker

Overcoming the Barriers: Improving Access to LGBTQ+ Content in Collections

“This paper will explore some of the barriers to identifying LGBTQ+ content in collecIMG_1776tions, including the lack of metadata identifying particular resources as gay-, lesbian-, bisexual-, or transgender-related, and problems matching theterminology of users with the terminology of the resources and attached metadata. Recent changes in the application of metadata to resource records will then be discussed, including the new thesaurus of Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT) describing the intended audiences of resources and the creators and contributors to those resources. If LGBT-related creator/contributor characteristics were added to authority records for LGBT individual persons, and these characteristics were then searchable and linked to bibliographic records related to those individuals, many more resources could then be identified and potentially retrieved as LGBT.”

Walter “Cat” Walker

Walter “Cat” Walker has been the Head Cataloging Librarian at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, since 2004. He is also the Chair of the Resources Committee of the American Library Association’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Roundtable (ALA GLBTRT). “Cat” has been a volunteer at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries for over two decades, and he is also the volunteer archivist for the California Men’s Gatherings.

“Cat” will be speaking on day 1 of the conference.

Speaker spotlight: Gregory Toth

GT - Gregory TothUDC: a close reading of the taxonomy through LGBTQ+ lens

“My talk attempts to illustrate whether discrimination exists throughout a lesser-known classification language: the Universal Decimal Classification. Although theoretically the UDC is a taxonomy that claims to be universal and the most flexible of all, my investigation has discovered some mixed findings. Its colossal scope and the way call numbers are built indicate that it is possible to avoid using sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and other biases in people-related terms. However, when we pay close attention to specific class numbers from the schedules, we witness that there are some very serious limitations. It seems that some categories have been successfully brought to a non-bias level, but others yet to move beyond the binary approach of heteronormativity, and as a result remain discriminative.”

Gregory Toth

I am Gregory, the Metadata and Discovery Manager at Senate House Library, University of London where I have been working since January 2016. I previously worked as the Collections Librarian at Regent’s University London and the Acquisitions and Cataloguing Librarian at the National Maritime Museum in London. In these roles I have been co-ordinating and maintaining data within the library catalogue, standardization of metadata and implementing quality controls to ensure quality in the library catalogue and discovery service.

Twitter: @viagregory

Senate House Library

Senate House Library is the central Library of the University of London and the School of Advanced Study. We offer Arts, Humanities and Social Science Research Collections and Special Collections in the heart of London’s student and research community. The Library moved to its current location at Senate House, the home of the University, in 1937.

Gregory will be speaking on day 1 of the conference

Tour: Trolling the LAGNA Archives

Join a tour to view the Special Collections and Archives housed at Bishopsgate Institute. It has been freely open to the public since 1895. This tour will look at important items from LGBTQ such as the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (a national collection of over 350,000 press cuttings regarding gay history) and the organisational archives of Stonewall, Outrage! And Switchboard (formerly London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard) along with badges, banners and even a wizard’s costume. Bishopsgate Institute’s collections also contains a wide range of resources relating to the history of London, including thousands of Travel Guides from all around the world, radical and social movements, feminism and much more.



Stefan Dickers

Stefan Dickers is the Library and Archives Manager at Bishopsgate Institute and looks after the Institute’s Special Collections on LGBTQ history, along with the Library’s numerous other collections on the history of London, the labour movement, co-operation, freethought and humanism, and protest and campaigning. He qualified as an archivist in 2001 and started at Bishopsgate in 2005. Previous to this, Stefan worked in the archives of the London School of Economics and Senate House Library. He is also secretary of the Archives and Resources Committee of the Society for the Study of Labour History.

The tour will be one of the options during the 5:30 Salons on day 1 of the conference