The Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ Oral History Project

oral history

Fabulous oral history projects continue to unfold. One of the endeavors and I have explored recently is the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, which is both an oral history project and an archiving initiative. It was founded in 2015 by Dr. Gregory Rosenthal, Assistant Professor of Public History at Roanoke College, either on their own or with others (it’s hard to tell from the website). This is an ambitious project that includes an oral history project that has so far collected interviews from 33 narrators, many of whom are queer and trans women, as well as many queer and trans people of color. They are also collecting archival objects, which make their final home in the Virginia room of the Roanoke Public Library. (Kudos to them  for collaborating with the library to create an archival home for these materials!) It’s also possible for folks to upload their own documents to the archive through this link. In addition to the oral histories and archiving work,  the project is also engaged in several public humanities initiatives. These include monthly walking tours concerning the queer history of Roanoke and two digital exhibitions drawn from the oral histories and archiving work. One of the exhibitions concerns gay and lesbian community organizing in the early 1980s, and the other focuses on gay liberation in Roanoke from 1966 through 1980. Like many of these projects, including my own, I wonder about questions of access and sustainability. Who is using these materials? Will people be accessing the entire two hour interviews (unlikely)?  Is Prof. Rosenthal keep track of who accesses and for how long?  Who will be working on this project over the long-term, etc. These are questions that all of us face.  I hope to learn more about the project on January 5,  after I have a chance to meet Gregory at the American Historical Association meetings in Chicago.

Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project