Virginia Historical Society Opens Gay & Lesbian Collection to Public
A press release from the Virginia Historical Society:
Richmond, VA-The Virginia Historical Society (VHS), with financial assistance from the Gay Community Center of Richmond (GCCR), recently completed processing materials from three archival collections related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) topics, such as activism, institutional and local history, civic issues, and social life and customs of the gay community.
The collections-Virginia Gay Lesbian Bisexual (GLB) Community Center materials; records of the Richmond Virginia Gay Alliance; and historian Betsy Brinson’s collection of papers related to gay rights activist Stephen M. Lenton, a counselor in the Richmond AIDS Ministry-were donated to the VHS within the past decade but had not yet been cataloged. The $1,000 awarded by GCCR in July 2008 enabled the VHS to process the collections quickly and make the contents accessible to a broad range of users through the society’s research library and website.
“Building on an important foundation of more than a half-dozen previously processed collections of manuscript records related to the LGBT community, these new materials significantly add to our resources for the study of the history of the broader gay community in central Virginia,” said E. Lee Shepard, Director of Manuscripts and Archives at the Virginia Historical Society. “The VHS recognizes that the subject area of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender is currently under-represented in research facilities. To address this deficiency, we are making significant strides in acquiring and making available important research materials relating to gay rights and interests.”
The GCCR funding was combined with two other manuscript processing awards to enable the VHS to hire a full-time special projects archivist who undertook processing of the new sets of records. Processing tasks included sorting, arranging, and describing three linear feet of records, which equates to more than 500 individual items. The records contained correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, notices, newsletters, photographs, and other materials. The project also provided conservation work for damaged or severely threatened materials, including proper archival housing for long-term preservation.
All of the material that the society’s manuscript and archives department recently processed is described and accessible through the VHS website (www.vahistorical.org). As future funding permits, the society hopes to build on this compilation and make digital versions of some of the items in these collections available online.
“We hope this effort will reveal the necessity to collect, preserve, and make accessible items from Virginia’s LGBT community, along with the inclusive scope of the society’s collections and its dedication to their stewardship and barrier-free access to them,” said Shepard. “We also hope it encourages more individuals and organizations to entrust their papers/records to the VHS to be preserved and used as research collections for those seeking to learn more about this influential community and its evolving role in Virginia’s history.”
“He was the lead organizer during the March on Washington, and yet you rarely hear his name mentioned. It is in part because he was a gay man in a time when that was difficult to talk about in society.”August 31, 2015
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