Friday, March 13, 2015

Spokane's Pride: Oral Histories of Spokane’s LGBT community

Look what my friend and EWU colleague Laura Hodgman has created: Spokane's Pride, a website dedicated to the oral histories of LGBT Spokane.

Spokane has a reputation as a conservative town, but of course we have always had a gay population. The first gay bar in Spokane opened in the 1950s, and the first drag ball happened about a decade later. Spokane's Pride explores this history with transcribed oral interviewsa timeline that integrates LGBT Spokane history with national events. and a glossary of some commonly-used terms.

Spokane's Pride grew out of “The Queer History Project,” an earlier oral history effort conducted by Maureen “Mo” Nickerson and others. The interviews for that project were conducted in 2006-07 and deposited at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. Hodgman resumed the effort in 2012, conducting her own interviews as well as transcribing some interviews from the earlier effort. Thirty-five individuals in all were interviewed.

The stories that Hodgman, Nickerson and others have gathered are by turns inspiring, harrowing, and revealing. A unique feature of the site is the Topics section, which organizes excerpts from different interviews around some common themes such as Coming Out, Parenting, and Spokane in Perspective.

Some may be disappointed to learn that there is no audio at the site. Hodgman explained to me that due to the sensitive nature of the topics and the necessary bonds of trust between interviewers and the LGBT community, she would interview the individuals, transcribe the interviews, and then allow the interviewees to review those transcripts and make sure they were comfortable with disclosing everything they said. Hodgman and the interviewees negotiated until everyone felt comfortable before the transcript went public. This is a completely justifiable way to proceed with such a project, and the method is partially explained under the Project portion of the website.

There is something of an explosion of LGBT oral history projects right now, including the ACTUP Oral History Project, Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Community Oral History Project, and Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles: A History of LGBTQ Life at the University of Chicago. At the exhibits at the last National Conference for Public History there was entire table of brochures and handouts for similar projects.

Spokane's Pride is very much a work in progress, with additional stories being added at a regular clip. It is a great additional to our region's digital history projects.

1 comment:

Spokanes Pride said...

Hi Larry:

Thanks to your suggestions, I've recently been able to improve the description of the project. (Also, I added a link to Spokane Historical in the acknowledgements section.) lh