Guest post: conference report by Margaret Tamulonis

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.

Margaret Tamulonis
Manager, Collections & Exhibitions
Fleming Museum of Art

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