Whether you have diaries, letters, books or political posters that offer a glimpse into Georgia’s LGBT history, archivists want you to know it’s all important and there are places to donate.
On May 19, numerous archivists and LGBT history advocates will get together at the Phillip Rush Center to discuss ways to let the public know that these items are important, and the donor doesn’t need to be famous.
“I think a lot of people think history is what famous people did,” said Hillery Rink, a member of the Georgia LGBTQ Archives Project. “But primary sources are the historians. People ask, ‘Why would someone be interested in my story?’ But it’s everyday people living their lives, particularly in the South, where we learn our history.”
The Georgia LGBTQ Archives Project was founded in December and includes members from Touching Up Our Roots, as well as Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Auburn Avenue Research Library, Special Collections, and Ponce de Leon branch; Atlanta History Center; Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library; Georgia State University’s Special Collections and Archives; SAGE Oral History Project; StoryCorps; and the Trans Tell Your Story Project.
“The concept evolved from merely providing an opportunity for donation … to truly informing LGBTQs about this and perhaps even providing a stepping stone for future efforts in this area,” said Ann Edmonds, manager of the LGBTQ circulating collection of books and DVDs at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System — Ponce de Leon Branch.
Archivists are interested in many things to include in their collections as a way to record and preserve the past, Edmonds noted, including buttons, posters, t-shirts, programs from events, flyers, magazine and newspaper articles, organizational records, personal papers, photographs and recordings.
“They will also work with donors who have much of their information digitally preserved,” she said. “The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library’s Special Collections also includes books along with archival materials.
“At the Ponce de Leon Branch, we are not an archive, we are interested in adding to our collection of LGBTQ-related books and DVDs. What will happen to a personal library is often one of the major concerns of older LGBTs and we welcome donations,” Edmonds said. “We are also particularly interested in identifying and adding the works of local LGBTQ authors.”
Touching Up Our Roots, founded by Dave Hayward, has also conducted and videotaped interviews with several older LGBT Atlantans and those items have been donated to the Woodruff Library of Emory University.
“We are working with contacts throughout Emory to call attention to these materials and to connect LGBT activists with students, faculty, staff and supporters of Emory,” Hayward said. “As always, we continue to facilitate interviews with LGBT leaders and activists for the StoryCorps project of National Public Radio at WABE radio in Atlanta.”
At the May 19 meeting, people young and old will have a chance to talk to archivists about what they have and where they may want to donate their items, Edmonds said.
“We have a large and inclusive goal: We hope to reach out to as many segments of the LGBTQ community in Atlanta as we can, both individuals and groups and organizations,” she said.
Edmonds and Rink also are making a special request to young people and newer organizations to start recording their history now by putting it on CDs or zip drives. Rink says old computers with an organization’s records can also be donated.
“Archives aren’t just for the end of a life or when an organization, business or group ceases to exist; what is happening now may be lost if there is not an awareness of the need to collect, maintain and preserve the documentation of life as it happens,” Edmonds said.