Gluck’s dresses; the workhouse supplanted by the National Portrait Gallery; Matt Smith’s interventions in Leeds; categories that work for and against people who identify as LGBTQI; approaches to representing HIV; the marvelous work of large institutions such as the British Museum and the V&A; the heroism of those maintaining small projects like the one in Cork. These are just a few of the presentations that keep running through my mind. While I have many “take-aways” from individual presentations, from the conference as a whole, I gather optimism from the fact that so many talented people are moving the efforts forward. When I began work on my collection, Gender, Sexuality, and Museums, it was truly difficult to find relevant materials. Now I could fill several volumes.
I do know that behind the exuberance we showed together there are many histories of pain and exclusion, and that members of this group are charged with recording them and making them accessible. I am grateful to them, knowing how such accounts can create a sense of comfort and connection among our students.
Topics that kept cropping up:
- Categories and categorizing
- Everyday people and their history
- Uncovering lost stories
- Bodies, skin, medicalization of queerness
- Crossing borders
Amy K. Levin
The ALMS Conference Without Borders was a game changer for me. Surrounded by thinkers, artists and archival practitioners from around the world, I gained valuable knowledge about queer archives, some I had never heard of. The approaches and methods to archival research were diverse, often with electrifying results. I presented my paper at Bishopsgate Institute.
Queer Photography, The Archive and The Elasticity of Time attempted to flesh out how fragmentation, temporality and elasticity are vital to queer discourse, particularly in terms of queer representation being evaluated beyond constraints of truth. The paper outlined how temporalities facilitate critical approaches to discourse and social change by shifting hegemonic power relations from absolute truth to signifying potentialities. Rather than adhere to the efficiency and completeness associated with the principles of archival work, my presentation focused on ‘being at home in marginal areas’ (Walter Benjamin) in order to investigate distinctive applications of difference.
The three-day conference created a number of important relationships that will stay with me. Built on passionate interest and dedication to queer knowledge, several delegates, may very well become life-long friends. This conference not only assisted in the growth of my research, but also developed a sense of kinship with archivists, artists and thinkers that I may not have gained access to without this conference.
Steph Schem Rogerson
The ALMS conference was an amazing experience. I come from a social science background: I am trained as a sociologist. On the first day of the conference, for a lack of better words, my mind was blown away. in more ways than one. This was my introduction into the world of Archive Studies, Museum Studies, and Library Studies. The information obtained was overwhelming at times, due to my lack of training in said fields, but that sensation was met with excitement and fervor. I learned about cataloguing, indexing, and the intersection of those fields with Queer Studies. Surprisingly, upon hearing certain presentations, and their interpretations of queering their fields, I began to comprehend queer ideologies within the archives, museums, and libraries: all the lost histories of queer identified people, the attempt of queering categorical fields, and so on. The connections made aided my introduction into these fields. Furthermore, I was shocked, in a splendid manner, at the interest taken in my presentation. I thought, indefinitely, after the first two days of presentations, my talk would be a bore: my paper is very theoretical, and, definitely, not an archive or anything of the sort. However, after my presentation I realized that I was presenting about oral histories, and I was reminded of the first day of the conference. Oral histories are forgotten truths because they are simply, oral histories: there is no record of them. My presentation, both the verbal aspect and the actual paper, are forever in history now: participants tweeted about my presentation (AMAZING!!!!) and in the program, which I’m sure will be archived. At this point, I recognized how connected I was to the other presenters. I am truly grateful for having the experience, and having met a new family.
Lee Thorpe, Jr.
Attendees – Tim Brunsden and Sandi Hughes
Presenting on the project Rewind Fast Forward.
We arrived in London on the evening of 21st June to attend the opening night reception which was really useful in getting a grip to all that was going on as well as meeting some of the people due to give some of those interesting presentations taking place over the three days. This was really useful time, and on reflection, perhaps a bit more social time planned into the conference would have been beneficial. It was a packed schedule, (which was great), but some specific time to reflect and discuss, make contacts, share good practice, would have been useful.
We were totally inspired – some of the talks, such as Matt Cook’s ‘Queer Pasts in the LGBT Present’, had particular relevance for our project. Bird la Bird’s performance on the Queer Portrait of a Workhouse was a wonderful mixture of performance and history presentation.
Rommi Smith showed some beautiful poetry created ‘ghost documents’ from letters that Tallulah Bankhead had written in support of Billy Holiday, suggesting that ‘artists interactions don’t take from the archive, they contribute to it, literally transforming the archive into an artwork’. This was particularly potent to when we are trying to archive with Rewind Fast Forward.
Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz also delivered a memorable talk on her practice documenting black lesbians of new York city, highlighting the importance of our role in ensuring people aren’t silencing themselves and that if fear wins, the archive is erased.
There was a good turn out for our presentation and people were genuinely interested in our project, particularly Sandi’s style of delivery. There was helpful and supportive feedback from the audience, including suggestions to our problems with accessible on-line storage for video work.
All in all, it was a fantastic and really informative event to be part of, and particularly useful to us for our research. One of the key things that made Sandi start documenting her community was that she realised that she wasn’t seeing her friends or her community on mainstream media and this unbalanced representation was the reason she became a filmmaker.
We were aware of the responsibility to the community as we launched the project and started the digitisation process. Questions have arisen about what should be shared and what should remain private, questions our colleagues at the conference have also faced and certainly we now feel more confident in moving forward, developing a model of good practice that might also help others in the future.
ALMS 2016 was both affirmation and inspiration. I am absolutely delighted that my paper was selected from the submissions received this year and that I was awarded a bursary from the organising committee. It was a privilege to present at the ALMS2016. As an established writer and performer, in the first year of her practice-based doctoral research, the conference offered a rich opportunity to gather, as part of a critical mass, to share, hear and debate issues central, not only to my own research inquiry but vital, to the historicity, advancement and progression of LGBTQI peoples.
That my paper and presentation (a work-in-progress, lecture-as-performance set to double bass) was received so positively, fuelled the verve and confidence with which I was able to approach my doctoral transfer process. Ideas, concepts, beliefs and conjecture developed in collaboration with my laptop, my artistic collaborators and friends Juliette Ellis and Jenni Molloy, and my supervision team: Professor Jane Taylor and Professor Jane Plastow, had a wider, public airing – in part, for the first time. Buoyed by the strength of the feedback I received from conference attenders (including established professors, researchers and other academic staff), presenting at ALMS2016 offered me a chance to see the positionality of my own research within a library and history of wider research and debate.
Juxtapositions of presentations and presenters led to serendipitous conversations. Those conversations continue. The formation of academic and political alliances is something made possible, under the auspices of the conference.
I am grateful to the conference that those conversations have led to invitations and opportunities to present my research in other parts of the world. In terms of impact and legacy, the ALMS conference has been directly important in forging global connections and friendships, nourishing not only to research, but to life.
I was eager to attend the LGBTQA ALMS conference for many reasons, especially around both my professional and my volunteer work. As caretaker for the Pride Center of Vermont’s Vermont Queer Archives, I wanted to refresh my perspective on grassroots archives and how they are sustaining themselves both independently and within larger institutions. And as a museum collections and exhibitions manager at a University museum, where I work closely with students who put a lot of thought into gender and sexuality and how they are reflected in Museum collections, I was eager to hear about how museums and galleries are exhibiting and talking about queer lives and culture.
The timing of the LGBTQ alms conference in London this year felt important and powerful as the Brexit vote took place. It was a privilege to meet and interact with people from so many parts of the world. Paris, London, South Africa, Australia, Canada and California. As a volunteer caring for an archive within a grassroots statewide non profit, it sometimes can be overwhelming and lonely thinking about and dealing with the issues of this care. The Pride Center of Vermont is a dynamic and marvelous organization, but the staff and board need to focus on fundraising and clients. The VQA is valued as a resource but needs exhibition space and funds for care.
Conferences such as the London ALMS conference are such strengthening, encouraging gatherings. This year, I returned from the London conference with new encouragement as well as many conflicting thoughts about borders and what may lie ahead for the LGBTQ world as well as the world of archives. With sessions on the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the June mazer Archives, and others, it helped to explore the different options and possibilities for grassroots archives to sustain themselves and thrive. I learned new ways to speak about the VQA and what is has to offer the local, national and even the international community. Sessions also made me more conscious of how archives and collecting may be perceived and supported (or not) by the varied members of the LGBTQ community. I want the VQA to be as accessible and diversified as so many of the archives I learned about at this conference.
Sessions on large museums and historic properties and how they are addressing the lives and cultures of LGBTQ people were inspiring. It was especially interesting for me to hear about Museums that use their existing collections and make them accessible in new and exciting ways, such as with new guides, books, and tours, that highlight the queer aspects of their collections.
Manager, Collections & Exhibitions
Fleming Museum of Art
It seems that a certain time and perspective is necessary for a community to focus its attention from present-time activism to retrospective “archivism”, or at least share its energies between the two. While there are certainly more urgent, “hot” issues to deal with, especially in countries that have to face individual and politically approved/incited homophobia (like Hungary), from a larger perspective, reconstructing and remembering our history should be considered just as essential (and political). In Hungarian lesbian association Labrisz, recently a growing need has appeared for exploring, organising and sharing partly the history of the organisation itself (being 16 years old, it has its own past now also in a material sense), partly the wider “Hungarian lesbian herstory”.
There are very few traces and resources of lesbian existence in Hungary from before the regime change, not to mention the pre-war period. Women with same-sex attraction seemed to be out of the system of social-institutional suppression on the one hand and social acknowledgement on the other. Paradoxically, the fact that only male homosexuality was criminalised in Hungary (until 1961), involves that one of the main resources of pre-war homosexual lives (court cases) are missing in the case of women. The few available traces of female same-sex attractions before WW2 derive from the field of psychiatry, the contemporary tabloid press, or from a few personal documents of close female friendships (of married or “single” women). The stories of the few women loving women have been preserved mostly due to their public cultural/social position (like poet Minka Czóbel, journalist Sándor/Sarolta Vay, writer Cécile Tormay, or poet Sophie Török). From the years after WW2, the private heritage of two out lesbians, writer Erzsébet Galgóczi and actress Hilda Gobbi are still waiting to be uncovered and are currently only partly accessible.
As for the forming archives of Labrisz Lesbian Association, its main purpose is to more systematically explore, collect and arrange autobiographical writings, correspondence, and other personal documents, as well as published articles and books related to women attracted to women in Hungary.
At the end of the 2000s, film director Mária Takács, launched an oral history project, which set out to record the lives of middle-aged and elderly women who lived as lesbians during state socialism. The resulting documentary and volume of interviews Secret Years have been translated into English, too. The narratives of the interviewees create a colourful picture of recent Hungarian social history: the state socialist Kádár era and the period of transition. The women, aged forty to eighty, are professionals, employees, artists, and catering workers, and their stories span the oppressive atmosphere of the fifties through the gradually increasing openness of the sixties, seventies and eighties. Coming from diverse social and economic backgrounds, they express different perspectives but have similar experiences when it comes to the pressure to hide their identities and the struggling with isolation. Their stories also reveal the hidden and semi-public spaces where women were able to meet. While some women looked for alternative/outsider spaces in the countryside, others opted for a specifically urban environment – such as music bands, artists’ societies, pubs, cafés, and the gradually emerging gay bars.
The English Secret Years interviews will be our first online ‘exhibit’ of our archives, but we are also seeking funding for organizing, cataloguing, and digitizing the already collected archival materials, and continue collecting written and visual documents of 20th-century Hungarian lesbian herstory. The long-term aim of the Hungarian Lesbian Herstory Archives is to serve as a resource for scholars, activists and the wider public and to give place to cultural events related to lesbian culture and history. We are also interested in cooperating with other lesbian/women’s/LGBT archives in the region and in ‘Western’ countries. The English translation of the sixteen Secret Years interviews will soon be available on www.labrisz.hu, and we will be gradually adding digitized versions of pieces of the archival material.
Thank you for your patience awaiting further posts. Soon we will be posting conference reports from our delegates who received our bursaries. In the mean time, take a look at this upcoming conference at one of our host institutions, the London Metropolitan Archives.
Queer Time; Queer Place; Queer Action: Sexualities and Localities is the 14th annual LGBTQ History and Archives conference hosted by the London Metropolitan Archives, and this year has been created with the involvement of the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Sexualities and Localities project (a collaboration between Birkbeck College and Leeds Beckett University). Click here for tickets.
Queer Time; Queer Place; Queer Action: Sexualities and Localities
Sat 3 December 2016 09:30 – 17:00
Our steering committee member Claire Hayward has kindly storyified all of the tweets from the ALMS conference. Follow the links to relive the excellent three days!
Day one: Bishopsgate Institute
Day two: University of Westminster
Day three: London Metropolitan Archives
A huge thank you to all of the active tweeters from the conference! Keep your eyes on the blog as we will be posting reports from delegates over the coming weeks.
All delegates are warmly invited to a welcome drinks reception hosted by our conference partners at the University of Westminster on Tuesday 21 June, from 6-9pm.
The reception takes place in the boardroom of the university’s 309 Regent Street building. It is an informal event and will be a great chance to meet fellow delegates and the steering committee members before the conference begins.
Although the event is free, you need to register separately to attend via University of Westminster’s Eventbrite page. Please register here.