Monday, October 15, 2012

Report from CPS intern Lauren Kwiatkowski



Editor's note: The Louisiana Research Collection is one of the campus partners with Tulane University's Center for Public Service. Tulane students are required to perform public service through CPS in order to graduate. LaRC hosted two CPS interns this summer. Our other intern's (Jane Ball) report can be seen here. The collections mentioned in the post below will be available to the public within a couple months.-- Eira Tansey
I had the pleasure of working on one of the Louisiana Research Collection's (LaRC) more recent projects: creating a collection that focuses on the history of Louisiana’s LGBTQA population, or those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, intersexual, asexual, questioning, ally, or any other identity that falls under the sexual and gender minority umbrella. As a history and political science major that was an active leader in Tulane's LGBTQA community throughout the 2010 - 2011 academic year, I sought to use my skill set and passion to create a top-notch collection for the Tulane community to use.

LaRC received a generous donation of about fifteen large boxes of material from the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans that included national magazines, personal letters, organization meeting minutes, local periodicals, and many more resources that date from the late 1960s to 2010. After weeding out unnecessary material, the remaining resources were divided into three broad categories. The first is ephemeral material, including pamphlets, brochures, posters, flyers, handouts, etc., which will be incorporated into LaRC's vast collection of ephemera. Next is Louisiana LGBTQ newspapers and magazines, which will be used to fill in any gaps in LaRC's and Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's current periodical collection. The final category is archival material, which serves as crux of the collection.
I could not be more pleased with how large and diverse the resulting collections are. LaRC now features six boxes of records from the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans (also known as the LGBTCCNO and formerly known as the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans), which has functioned as a social, politics, and support center for the greater New Orleans' queer population and many of the city's other minority populations since 1992. The collection features the organization's correspondence, executive board material, financial records, activity logs, membership lists, sponsorship records, and much more. The second collection is the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC) Records. LAGPAC, centered in Alexandria, Louisiana, focused on political activism for equal constitutional rights for Louisiana's queer population. The LAGPAC Records consist of two boxes of correspondence, financial records, executive materials, bylaws, membership lists, and meeting minutes of the organization, as well as its political research and endorsements.

If that was not enough, there is a third possible collection currently under review that would shed much light on the often overlooked queer population of rural Louisiana, as well as mixed materials from smaller, now-defunct Louisiana LGBTQA groups that may be incorporated into LaRC in the near future.
I firmly believe that an understanding of a group's history is necessary to truly understanding them at present and I hope that my work will be used in the future to educate our students and community at large on the LGBTQA community, which comprises 10%-15% of the state's population. I hope that the collection will be put to good use, particularly by Gender and Sexuality Studies students, Tulane’s queer student groups (Student Women Embracing Equality at Tulane, Queer Student Alliance, the Mpowerment Project, Gamma Rho Lambda sorority, and the Gender Exploration Society), and other members of the Tulane community interested in the intriguing and empowering history of Louisiana’s queer population. I know that this collection can and will benefit the students who use it, as they get to see, first-hand, the inspiring story of a population that has fought for the rights and acceptance it has today. Further; I truly believe that this collection will diffuse a stronger understanding of the LGBTQA population throughout the community, and, progressively, even those who are prejudiced against the queer community will eventually become more accepting with patience and education.
My goal in working on this collection is to help the Tulane community progress towards acceptance and equality for all students, and I am very happy to say that thanks to LaRC and this collection, we are another step on the way.

Text by Lauren Kwiatkowski. Images from the Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Images may not be reproduced without permission.