Archival of the Fittest: The Role of Archives in Constructing Public Memory of Queer History

Brooks Hosfeld Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Zach Scarlett Butler University
Truth, particularly in history, is subjective and constructed through memory. Memory, in turn, is created by archivists, as they actively choose and preserve the narratives made available to researchers and the public; they hold a key position in deciding what is widely understood about what happened in the past. In the same way archivist bias leads to historical erasure, archivists establish historical remembering when they actively make space for individuals and groups who are traditionally omitted from past narratives. Community archives stand distinct from state counterparts, as they restructure what is deemed valuable enough to be preserved within historical memory, thus shifting power to marginalized people reclaiming the past and future. Though a case study of IHLIA LGBT Heritage (frequently shortened to IHLIA), an LGBTI-specific archive in Amsterdam, I unpack archival biases and decisions that contribute to collective memory. Extending the production of memory beyond archival walls, IHLIA has recently presented a public exhibit entitled With Pride to celebrate the institution’s fortieth anniversary and the four decades of LGBT activism in Amsterdam since its founding. While archives are semi-public spaces dictating historical narrative through meticulous collecting and researcher engagement, exhibits heighten visibility of selectively-curated information through public access; the coalition between archive and exhibit at IHLIA intensifies the memorialization of a societally-palatable gay past. By analyzing these spaces, I call to attention the value and necessity of community-based archives, identify IHLIA’s role in Dutch homonationalism, and critique archivists’ decentering of queer audiences and generational identities.
History
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:30 AM
Jordan Hall 301