LGBTQ Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections 2016: Without Borders

Sorry for the long gap in blog posts, I’ve been very busy working on my thesis, and much more exciting things, including this!

You might remember a much earlier post on this blog from just before I started my PhD, when I mentioned the LGBTI ALMS (Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections) conference in Amsterdam. It was an incredible conference, and I’m so pleased to be a small part of its follow up in summer 2016. I am part of the steering committee, and the conference is hosted by London Metropolitan Archives and the Bishopsgate Institute, and a third institution which is to be announced shortly!

The call for papers is as follows:

Deadline for proposals is 8 January 2016:

Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections (ALMS) 2016
an International LGBTQ+ Conference hosted by the City of London through London Metropolitan Archives in partnership with Bishopsgate Institute.

Dates: 22 – 24 June 2016
Location: London


ALMS is an international conference focussed on the work by public, private, academic, and grassroots organisations which are collecting, capture and preserving archives of LGBTQ+ experiences, to ensure our histories continue to be documented and shared. The conference began in Minnesota in 2006 when the Tretter Collection and Quatrefoil Library co-hosted the first LGBT ALMS Conference. The last conference took place in Amsterdam in 2012 and saw archivists, activists, librarians, museums professionals and academics from around the world coming together to share success stories and discuss challenges involved in recording LGBTQ+ lives.


To reflect our emerging global community, the 2016 conference is titled ‘Without Borders’. Papers are invited from across the heritage, cultural, academic and grassroots communities. Our aim is to generate a dialogue within the co-dependent fields of LGBTQ+ historical research and collecting, and share experiences, ideas and best practice through a programme of presentations and short talks that explore margins, borders, barriers and intersections, past and present. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

• Barriers –in accessing LGBTQ+ content within existing collections, and in collecting material from LGBTQ+ communities
• Intersections – collecting, cataloguing or researching subjects which share multiple / contrasting identities
• Margins – researching elusive or liminal subjects; learning, research or projects taking place outside formal institutions
• Connections – uniting individuals or communities across boundaries through heritage or research
• Border police – navigating the formal standards of the heritage sector, including official terms and language or constructions of identity

We invite 200 word abstracts offering informal 10-minute presentations that share work-in-progress or provide an introduction to new projects or research that address these themes.

We also invite 300 word abstracts for 20-minute papers or presentations exploring the themes in more detail.

We particularly welcome contributions from BME / QPOC (Black Minority Ethnic / Queer People of Colour) and Transgender communities, as well as from those living outside the UK and USA.

The ALMS conference 2016 is being delivered on a not-for-profit basis by London Metropolitan Archives and Bishopsgate Institute in order to encourage dialogue and share knowledge in LGBTQ+ histories and cultures. The conference is not being funded as part of a wider project and the organisers are unable to cover speakers’ costs except in cases where keynote or invited speakers are prevented from attendance for financial reasons. A limited number of bursaries for attendees will be made available at the beginning of 2016.

Abstract deadline: Friday 8 January 2016
Abstracts to:

A website will shortly be launched, but in the mean time you can keep an eye out for announcements at the Facebook page and on twitter @LGBTQALMS

‘Queer homes, queer houses’ workshop at ‘Lines of Dissent’, the 12th annual LMA LGBTQ History & Archives conference

Yesterday was London Metropolitan Archives’ 12th annual LGBTQ History and Archives conference. The day was co-curated by the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the theme was ‘Lines of Dissent’ and was focusing on queer genealogy. The key note from Daniel Monk, Birkbeck was ‘The perils and pleasures of queer wills’ and after that was a series of carousel workshops in which delegates got to play archive detective by looking at primary source documents and trying to gather what the material might say about the person, or people to whom they belonged.

In the afternoon, I facilitated a workshop called ‘Queer homes, queer houses’, in which I briefly spoke about my own research, and highlighted some examples of queer homes. I then asked the participants to create plans of a place they live, or have lived in, but instead of highlighting rooms or objects, to highlight moments and memories. We all did this on A3 tracing paper, and then we tied them all together to create a patchwork curtain (dubbed on the day, rather tongue-in-cheek, as a patchwork quilt of painful memories), which I then presented to all of the delegates. I’m delighted with how much effort everyone put in, and for sharing their memories, and I’m really grateful to Jan Pimblett, who organised the day, for inviting me to do a workshop. It has given me loads to think about for my research. You can view the work that was created here:

Created with flickr slideshow.

and I made a video of some highlights here:

‘Queer homes, queer houses’ : a workshop at the LMA LGBTQ History and Archives conference from Sean Curran on Vimeo.

Here are a few pictures of the workshop in progress:

and a few of me presenting it, thanks to my glamorous assistants Jan and Gavin:

Another highlight of the day for me was when Surat Shaan Knan of Rainbow Jews told us his personal story and wonderful news, and announced the successful funding bid for Twilight People, a project about trans* people of faith, which I am delighted to announce I will be co-curating. I can’t wait for us to work together, and I am sure this really important project will be a huge success!

Thanks again to Jan, to Gavin Baldwin, Matt Cook, Justin Bengry, Faridha Karim, Surat, and to everyone else who organised and contributed to make it such an inspiring day. Also, big thanks to Claire Hayward who ensured there was a lively twitter presence throughout the day, and who has storified the tweets here.

Lines of Dissent – 12th Annual LGBTQ History & Archives Conference

I’m really pleased to share the flyer for the London Metropolitan Archives’ 12 Annual LGBTQ History and Archives conference, run in partnership with the Raphael Samuel History Centre this year. I’ve been part of the conference steering committee for the last two years along with a great team, and this year I’ve been asked to host a practical workshop about queer homes. The focus this year is on LGBTQ genealogy and family history.

The conference takes place at the London Metropolitan Archives on December 6th, tickets are just £10, or £7.50 for concessions. You can book tickets here.

I hope to see many of you there!

Rainbow Jews: help to save a legacy

Just wanted to share a fundraising initiative from a really great project.

I’ve mentioned the Rainbow Jews project before, but for those of you who are not familiar, this project is pioneering, in that it records and showcases Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history from the 1950s to today. For the first time ever in British history, it captures the voices and experiences of Jewish LGBT people in the UK through oral histories and archive creation.

Like so many great queer heritage initiatives, it is volunteer-led, and the financial support from the Lottery Heritage Fund grant has now finished. Led by Surat Knan, the Rainbow Jews have done great things, they have launched an exhibition which is now set to travel the country, they have collected oral histories from a much overlooked community that otherwise would have been lost, and they have, with the support of the London Metropolitan Archives, began to gather material for an archive collection.

There is still so much to do though. Donations will work towards achieving the following:

  • covering staff costs for a part-time project manager, who will coordinate the volunteers, and continue to promote our key activities, such as: 
  • getting this wonderful exhibition around the country to further share these amazing stories and experiences, (already confirmed Leicester, Birmingham and Liverpool/Homotopia as from 31 August 2014; with more possibilities e.g. Belfast). 
  • creating over 5 events such as launch receptions, film screenings and talks while touring. 
  • disseminating education resources, and co-facilitating sessions at school, youth groups etc.
  • recording and processing of over 10 new oral histories, especially of Jewish LGBT pioneers in remoter UK regions. 
  • collecting more memorabilia and fostering our archive collection at LMA

The page to donate (and to find out more about the fundraising project) is here. Let’s all ensure that this great heritage project doesn’t join the long line of brilliant grassroots queer initiatives that have faded away due to a lack of funding.

“Anthem for doomed youth”?: exploring conflict and resolution through archives

Join us on Tuesday, March 25th 2014, for our annual ‘Friends of Newsam Library & Archives’ (FNLA) Study Day. This year’s event, “Anthem for doomed youth”?: exploring conflict and resolution through archives, considers the concepts of war, conflict and peace through the lense of learning and education.

Document Reference: BDN/64

The day’s programme:

9.45-10.00 Welcome and Introductions (Sean Curran)
10.00-10.30 Activities in the Library and Archives (Sarah Aitchison)
10.30-11.30 Professor Stuart Foster Centenary First World War Battlefields Project
11.30-12.30 Dr Barry Blades, Teachers and the Great War, 1914-1919
12.30-13.30 Lunch (please bring your own). Tea and coffee will be provided.
13.30- 14.30 Walter Lewis, Educating Service Children in the 20th Century
14.30-15.30 Alix Hall, Thinking Outside the Box: Using Archives to Teach Perspectives on Wartime
15.30-16.00 Archive showcase of relevant collections from the Library Special Collections and Archives

Where: Newsam Library & Archives, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London

When: Tuesday, 25 March 2014 from 09:30 to 16:00

Register for free tickets here.

Find out more about the Friends of Newsam Library & Archives, including how to become a member, here.

‘Unspeakable’ LMA LGBTQ History and Archives Conference

Saturday was the London Metropolitan’s annual LGBTQ History and Archives conference, and, dare I say, I think it was even better than the 10th anniversary conference in February.

I’m not going to report on the whole day, as I have a mountain of work to do before the end of the year (my upgrade interview from mphil to phd takes place tomorrow- eeshk), but I’ll highlight some of the speakers I found particularly engaging.

  • Veronica McKenzie presented part of her film Under Your Nose which looks at the intersections between race and sexuality, and focuses particularly on the involvement of black lesbians in the 70s and 80s and the establishment of the Black Lesbian Group and the Black Feminist Network. You can view a clip from the film here.
  • Catherine O’Donnell and Harriet Richardson from the People’s History Museum in Manchester, I’ve mentioned the PHM on here in the past. You can find more about the Pride in Progress? project on the blog. I look forward to being involved in the project in February.
  • Surat Knan from Rainbow Jews was, as always, extremely engaging, and introduced us to Esther who shared her very moving story about being ostracised from an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill. You can hear from her here. It was particularly moving to hear an oral history, which I’m sure all of us there were familiar with, in person, the workshop session allowed Esther to go into more detail, and I applaud her bravery for sharing her story with us.
  • Dr Clare Barlow from the National Portrait Gallery spoke about the dilema of choosing appropriate pronouns in the text panels for the recent acquisition of a portrait of Chevalier D’Eon, who endured a very public change of gender in the 18th century. Ultimately, I think they made the wrong decision (they went for ‘he’), but the talk was an extremely engaging one and highlighted the complexities of framing non gender conforming people in the context of an art gallery.
  • The day ended with Stella Duffy and our fabulous chair for the day Louise Chambers discussing some of the issues raised throughout the conference, and a brilliant performance by the Pink Singers.

Here’s to the next one!

Hall-Carpenter Archives visit

On Wednesday 6th November, the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) LGBT History Club took its monthly meeting to the London School of Economics (LSE) to look at the Hall-Carpenter collection.

The Hall-Carpenter Archives was founded in the 1980s to document the history of LGBT activism in Britain. It consists of over 2000 boxes of material, and most of the archives are post-Wolfenden Report.

Rather than give a run down of the collections (which you can find here, as well as information how to access materials), I thought I would just highlight three things I found interesting from the sample of the collection that were laid out for us to have a look at.

  • I spotted a copy of Gay Times that had an interview with Sinead O’Connor in it from 1988 (August, Issue 119), I’m a huge Sinead fan, so was keen to read the interview. In it, she was talking about performing at a Pride event, and said that while she was wary of benefit gigs (because she felt artists often only attended to massage their own ego), she wanted to do Pride because it felt like something that people only engage with if they really care about the cause. The interviewer, Rose Collis, said ‘in the true spirit of the day, Sinead’s expense claim for her performance was her young son’s babysitter’s fee’ (p38)- which made me love her even more. In the same issue I stumbled upon a quote that I found really striking in a letter about gay bereavement, which said ‘Those who love in secret must mourn alone’ (p27).
  • A second thing that struck me was an article in Diva magazine from 1994 (June, Issue 2) called ‘Girls with Gun Glamour: can lesbians be camp?’ by Paula Graham. I found this particularly interesting because my supervisor and I often discuss how camp seems to be considered the realm of gay men, when we both consider it to be a trait more easily identified in women (think Hattie Jacques). In the article, Graham suggests that ‘”camp” has become a kind of glam-talisman against the spectre of “frumpy” feminism’ (p21) and she argues that ‘cross-dressing allows gay men to flirt with sexualised loss of control. Lesbians generally want more control, not less.’ Not sure I agree with either of those statements, but an interesting read nonetheless, which made me think of the book ‘Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna’ by Pamela Robertson, which was published just two years after this article was written, and is definitely worth a read.
  • I thought I’d save the best til last. I looked at a report on a pilot study on attitudes towards homosexuality from September 1963, which was part of the Albany Trust (HCA/ALBANY TRUST/12/7), which was founded in May 1958 as a complimentary organisation to the Homosexual Law Reform Society with a remit to promote psychological health in men. The sample for the pilot was very small, around 24 I believe, and while many of the attitudes reported were negative, as might be expected for the time, most offensive was the way in which the report itself framed the negative attitudes. Apparently the study showed that there is ‘a tendency to think of homosexuals as amusing, or rather funny or ridiculous, rather in the same way as people might be inclined to think of dwarfs or small dogs, with a strong admixture of complacent and scornful superiority, although with surface sympathetic pity.’ (p12). I would be very interested to know if any of the interviewees had made the comparison with “dwarfs” or small (why ‘small’ specifically?) dogs, otherwise if it came from the people who compiled the report, perhaps they need to be interviewed in a pilot for attitudes towards short people… a good reminder that wording and language when analysing data from research needs to be considered and troubled!

I highly recommend taking a look at the collections, we barely scratched the surface during the visit. I also highly recommend the LMA LGBT History Club, which I often mention on this blog, it provides a varied space for contesting, discussing and scrutinising LGBT History and archive collections. You can find more information here.

Also, I have some exciting news, so keep your eyes on the blog for some LGBT History Month based excitement!

‘Unspeakable’ 11th LGBTQ History and Archives Conference, London Metropolitan Archives

The 11th LGBTQ History and Archives conference at the London Metropolitan Archives is taking place on Saturday 7th December, and promises to be a great follow up to the tenth anniversary spectacular that took place at the Guildhall in February.

The theme this year is about addressing the silences in LGBTQ history and the underrepresentation of certain communities, and how a more inclusive approach can help to shatter the barriers.

For more information, visit the facebook page here. You can book at the Eventbrite page here.

Speakers, contributors and performers include:

Eastern Europe in Drag Dzmitry Suslau.
Focusing on this exhibition, this presentation will explore traditional gender norms and the role of drag performers and queer artists.

Rainbow Jews: Oral History Surat Knan.

Rainbow Jews’ presents their current Oral History project.

The Problem of Pronouns The National Portrait Gallery.

Dr Clare Barlow presents the questions and challenges which arose when representing Chevalier D’Eon’s extraordinary life.

Archiving the Ephemeral Pride Alan Butler.

This presentation will discuss the significance of oral history interviews held at Plymouth LGBT archives.

LGBT history in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire Sam Bairstow and Karen Cooke.

Gloucestershire Archives are currently working to gather and share local community histories.

Pride in Progress? The People’s History Museum.

Harriet Richardson and Catherine O’Donnell present the findings of their project, “Pride in Progress?” and the rich experience of working with marginalised communities.

Mirror Mirror Zemirah Moffat.

The film “Mirror Mirror” depicts Club Wotever, (now Wotever World,) a club which attracts performers not afraid to play with gender, sexuality and desire.

Q Theatre Bristol Alice Human, Abi Higgs, Charlie Scott, Zoe Collins.

New performance by an emerging all female Queer friendly theatre group.

Into the Light Veronica McKenzie.

Presenting extracts from the film, “Under Your Nose,” this presentation will focus on the involvement of black lesbians in late 70’s and early 80s single-issue politics and their response to multiple discrimination.

I hope to see you there!

Call for presentations / performances


The Eleventh LGBTQ History and Archives Conference
7 December 2013, 9.30am-4.30pm
London Metropolitan Archives, 40, Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB

Call for Presentations / Performances

Due to much of LGBT History being shaped around legal and political landmarks relating mainly to the experiences of gay men, other queer voices often go unheard. The eleventh LGBT History and Archives Conference explores the histories and experiences of Trans, Lesbian and Bisexual people. These stories are rarely told and, if presented, often not listened to. Come and make some history.

Contributors are invited to submit proposals for performances, presentations and talks lasting ten-twenty minutes,  which explore marginalised experience within an apparently liberated community. Suggested themes: the creation, control and breaking of boundaries; self-asserted and imposed identities; labelling – the liberation and constraint of language; activism – meeting challenges

Deadline for submissions: 6 September 2013     email:

‘Tools of the Trade’ event report

Tools of the Trade: Historical Textbooks and other Teaching and Learning Resources
The 2013 Friends of Newsam Library and Archives study day

Just thought I would briefly report on the IOE Friends of the Library and Archives study day that I organised with Becky Webster’s help.

On Wednesday 6th of February, our annual study day, sponsored by the Friends of the Newsam Library and Archives took place. The inspiration for the theme of the day was the rich historical textbook collections held by the library and recent and current projects to catalogue the geography, history, science and technology textbooks. The day began with a brief overview of the archive collections by Deputy Archivist Becky Webster, followed by Dr Toby Simpson, the Learning and Engagement Manager from The Wiener Library, who gave an illuminating and shocking talk about how German children were taught Nazi values through propaganda in textbooks from 1933-1945, which had been the subject of a recent exhibition at the Wiener. We are very fortunate here at the Institute of Education to be within walking distance of such a rich collection with a profoundly important history, not to mention a beautiful reading room and expert staff. Next, Nazlin Bhimani and Antony Daws from the IOE Library spoke about the historical textbooks collection and supporting research, and the history of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and its resources respectively. After lunch, Bernard Barker recounted his experiences as a history teacher in the 1970s, and the controversy surrounding his innovative and inspirational teaching style. Bernard’s latest book (due in January 2014) is ‘Education and Social Mobility: Dreams of Success’. The final slot of the day was occupied by two current MPhil/PhD students from the IOE, Alice Kirke and myself, both of us received AHRC funding for our research.  Alice, an education historian, spoke about landscape and the environment in the history of education, looking specifically at the contested understandings and practices of rural education. I spoke about my research with the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT) collection in the IOE Archives and looked at case studies of how women’s archive collections can be used effectively in outreach and education. The day ended with a showcase of many of the archive and library collections that were mentioned throughout the event. The study day was well attended and generated lots of interesting questions, discussions and debate. A huge thank you to everyone who attended, and special thanks to the speakers. We look forward to embarking on the planning of the 2014 study day!

You can find out more about the Friends group here.