Where are they now ? – Cait McKinney


I worked at the Co[photo of Cait wearing a grey sweater, blue button down and brown glasses]llaboratory for the 2014-15 academic year, developing digitization protocols for audio tapes. Through this work, Nick Matte, Al Stanton-Hagan and I designed a digitization station, wrote a training manual, and offered a volunteer orientation program aimed at creating digital versions of oral histories tapes at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. This work drew on my academic background as a media studies researcher who has examined grassroots digitization practices in community archives. The collaboratory gave me the chance to apply this area of my scholarly expertise to a practical, digital humanities project. It expanded how I think about my work in relationship to digital humanities methods, and I anticipate a long career grounded in community-based research coming out of this experience.

I left the Collaboratory last August and moved to Montreal for a postdoctoral fellowship at McGill University’s Media@McGill, where I also teach Queer Theory at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. As a researcher, I draw on archival research and interviews to construct media histories of LGBTQ social movements, from Lesbian-Feminist Indexers learning how to use early database software in the 1980, to HIV/AIDS activists building their own network servers in the 1990s. I study how precarious populations use media technologies to create and circulate vital information, often within crisis conditions. In this work I have examined LGBTQ community archives, studying their digitization practices. I also work in these archives as a researcher, drawing on the papers of organizations and individuals to reconstruct their media practices. Across all my research, I seek to better understand and ultimately improve queer approaches to knowledge mobilization.

The Collaboratory taught me that providing digital access to records of these organizations and their media practices is vital for understanding a longer, queer genealogy of working with media and technology to tell under-represented stories. Recording an oral history in 1980 is a radical act of preservation; digitizing this story in the present continues this trajectory, but with a new set of tools.