Cork LGBT Archive adds name to open letter supporting the preservation of LGBTQ+ culture and history

The letter shared the importance of queer archives being established and run by the LGBTQ+ community.

Four smiling people pose for a photo

The Cork LGBT Archive has added its name to an open letter signed by 45 LGBTQ+ archives from 22 countries supporting the preservation of LGBTQ+ culture.

The open letter by Collectif Archives LGBTQI, titled How Paris Can Support the Preservation of LGBTQI History and Culture, describes how “the experience of LGBTQI people has been excluded from the record by the traditional institutions that establish the history of our societies, resulting in a loss of historical understanding for both LGBTQI people and society in general.”

The letter continues, “Initiatives seeking to repair this erasure reflect the specificities of their individual countries and regions, but they share common objectives: documenting queer experience in the past and present; making this documentation available to researchers of all kinds; supporting the production and diffusion of queer historical knowledge; and creating queer public memory through exhibitions, programs and other cultural activities.

“An undertaking central to this movement is the creation of organisations conceived and directed by the LGBTQI community itself to gather and interpret primary sources of queer history and culture. As individuals involved in creating, maintaining, supporting and using such organizations, we are in a position to attest to features that are vital to their success.

“We know they are effective precisely because their foundations are built directly in the LGBTQI community: The impetus for their establishment, growth and use comes not from elected officials, government agencies, political parties or academic institutions, but rather from the very people whose past they are committed to recording. They respond to the queer desire for claiming a place in time that is felt deeply by those who have been exiled from history. They do this by combining groundbreaking collections development and critical scholarship with sensitivity and responsiveness to evolving community needs.”

Archivist Orla Egan shared, “I was very happy to sign this letter of support for the French LGBTQI Archives Collective on behalf of the Cork LGBT Archive. This letter highlights the importance of establishing queer archives that are conceived and directed by the LGBTQI community itself. State financial support is important but the letter emphasises the importance of these archives being established and run by the LGBTQI community.

“This letter reflects the importance of the growing international community of LGBT archives and the collaborations between queer archivists and historians internationally. These queer collaborations have been very important in supporting, inspiring and sustaining my own work with the Cork LGBT Archive.”

In June 2019, hundreds of us gathered at the Queering Memory ALMS LGBT Conference in Berlin and the opening comment at the conference summed it up perfectly: “We are family, and this is our family reunion.”

Egan continued, “I hope that our French colleagues succeed in getting state support to establish an independent LGBTQI archive in Paris. It would also be great if we had proper state support for queer archival activities in Ireland. Most of this work is done on a voluntary basis, and archives such as the Cork LGBT Archive have no core funding. Perhaps we will be calling on our international queer family to support us in future calls for proper funding for the Cork LGBT Archive, the Irish Trans Archive and other Irish queer archival projects.”

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