Pride in the Libraries | Documenting LGBTQ Life

This past weekend, the Holy City celebrated diversity and equal rights for all during Charleston Pride. The College of Charleston Libraries were honored to take part in the festival and share information about its latest project, Documenting LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry.

Pride’s festival and parade are hallmark events. In previous years, both have drawn thousands of volunteers and participants. This large and engaged cohort bodes well for the LGBTQ community’s present and future. But what of its past?

Where are the statues or historical markers? Or the local sources that tell their stories? For a city that trades so heavily on its past, why is such a large chapter of its 300-plus-year history conspicuously absent?

Due to a long history of stigmatization of LGBTQ individuals, available archival materials have long been at risk of being hidden or destroyed.

And so, the old maxim remains true: We can make history only when we record and preserve it.

That is exactly what the Libraries are actively working to do with Documenting LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry.

The project seeks to shed light on the experiences of the region’s understudied LGBTQ population by collecting archival materials and recording oral histories. Whether a new transplant or a longtime resident, the Libraries want to hear your story.

The impact is already tangible. More than 20 oral histories have been recorded and a dozen collections of organizations and individuals now call Special Collections home. Soon these will be freely accessible online. With guidance from project staff, graduate students are also researching these new materials as part of their master programs’ theses.

Headed by Special Collections and the Women’s Health Research Team, the project includes several Cougar students currently working to save this history. Documenting LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry is made possible by a grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and philanthropist Linda Ketner, who has generously offered a $25,000 challenge grant.

Cities, regions, and universities across the country have sought to address this gap in their histories. The Libraries’ project is the first of its kind in the Lowcountry.

You can learn more about the project and the Lowcountry’s LGBTQ history during the Libraries’ Fall Alumni Weekend event on Friday, Nov. 16. Over cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres, attendees will enjoy a boutique exhibit of never-before-displayed materials and a brief presentation with author, historian and Lambda Literary Award novelist, Harlan Greene, the College’s scholar-in-residence and director of the Documenting LGBTQ Life in the Lowcountry project.

It’s your chance to help the College make history by preserving history. Reserve your Early Bird tickets today for only $10.

Did you miss Pride this year? Check out the Libraries’ digital project, The Real Rainbow Row: Charleston’s Queer History, and a new database, Archives of Sexuality and Gender, bringing together approximately 2.5 million historical documents on issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the world. 

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