LGBT History and Education at London Metropolitan Archives
This year’s LGBT History Month has been a special one for us at London Metropolitan Archives, marking the 10th year of our London Gay History Project, which culminated in our 10th LGBT History, Archives and Culture Conference, Brave New World? (already mentioned on The National Archives’ blog).
LMA’s London Gay History Project doesn’t just end with our conferences however. 2013 will see the launch of our LGBT History Education workshops, which allow young people to use documents from the LMA’s collections to explore themes in LGBT history.
With all of this in mind, I thought this blog would be a great opportunity to highlight and celebrate some of the LMA’s LGBT history sources…
Account of the trial for sodomy of Captain Edward Rigby (LMA reference MJ/SP/1698/12/024)
As has been discussed on this blog before, one of the largest difficulties in researching LGBT history is that before the mid-20th century, the stories of people’s lives are often next to invisible, hidden away in the records of official bodies, using archaic language and usually lacking in detail. This makes researching LGBT history in archives quite a challenge (which is why The National Archives’ Discovery tags are such a good idea!), but I’ve been lucky enough at LMA to have most of the hard graft done already by our community archivist.
One of our most interesting early modern documents is the account of the trial for sodomy of Captain Edward Rigby, which took place in 1698 (LMA reference: MJ/SP/1698/12/024). It tells a fascinating story and paints an unusually vivid picture of homosexual life in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, further context for which I am indebted to historian Rictor Norton.
Continue reading »
Just a selection of the campaign badges held by the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (with thanks to Bishopsgate Institute for the image)
We’re now well into LGBT history month, celebrated by The National Archives and many other heritage organisations and communities across the country. It seems like a good moment to reflect on how LGBT archives appear in the historical record, without which LGBT history month couldn’t exist.
Older records can be really problematic for studying LGBT history, and seem almost to conspire to hide histories rather than to reveal. Where a community was of necessity trying to avoid the eye of the authorities, there’s relatively little in the official records, and when it does exist, it’s often a negative portrayal. Jenni’s blog earlier in the month outlined what The National Archives is trying to do about that, revealing hidden histories and bringing together information on LGBT records so that it is easier to find. Continue reading »
“Claiming our history, celebrating our past, creating our future!” is the motto of LGBT history month which begins today.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) history has been in focus at The National Archives for a while now and we have many things going on to contribute to the aim above, and encourage future research in the area.
The rainbow of LGBT can be found in many archives and libraries. Source: www.flickr.com/photos/bluemarla/229631339/in/set-72157608188767044/
Today sees the re-launch of our Gay and Lesbian history research guide which has been updated and streamlined to make it more user-friendly for those starting out in their research. It suggests a number of areas where users may wish to begin, but also, importantly, it suggests historical terminology to use in our online catalogue.
Continue reading »
Turning paper graveyards into community hubs
Following the post from my fellow trainee Kasia about her work with the Polish community in Leicestershire, I would like to expand upon the topic of archives and the community where I work at Surrey History Centre.
It’s probably fair to say that most people in Surrey have never visited an archive, and it’s easy to see why. As a history lover, I love the idea of rummaging through old documents but, for a research novice, it’s easy to think of an archive building as a kind of paper graveyard, where documents belonging to people who are no longer around, or companies that no longer exist, are left in dusty boxes only to be looked at occasionally by a scholar or academic, if at all.
My traineeship works to challenge this image. We encourage people to take an interest in our collections, to use us for research and to deposit items and collections they think might be important to the history of Surrey in our archive. We need to show that even though the items stored are objects of history, the collections are still socially relevant today.
The main issue, which I am sure many archives would agree with, is that the demographic of users is made up mostly of white, middle-class people, often retired. However, the history of Surrey is full of other cultures, nationalities, and identities that need to be drawn out of the archives and made visible to the wider community.
I would like to pull out two examples that I have been working on during my traineeship. Continue reading »
WorldPride 2012 was celebrated in London last week and so I thought I’d use my blog today to draw attention to an exciting area of research that is truly uncovering some of the hidden areas within the records.
Rainbow flag (CC source: Ludovic Bertron www.flickr.com/photos/70313016@N08/6381004581/lightbox/)
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) history is a steadily growing research area. At The National Archives, largely due to the nature of the records we hold, research in to this area has been challenging. As true ‘hidden histories’ in the records, it can take a lot of thought and digging to uncover examples of LGBT histories in government files. In the case of gay history, it is often particularly difficult to uncover records free of negative connotations, such as criminal prosecution. This is often a question of the language used to describe homosexuality during different periods, when it was considered a crime or illness (for example ‘gross indecency’ or ‘unnatural practice’), and the interpretation of documents themselves which may or may not refer to gay or lesbian issues explicitly.