Reflection #7 – Louisiana Research Collection

*Read below about Lauren Kwiatkowski’s enriching internship with the Louisiana Research Collection!*

The average Tulane University student is unlikely to take advantage of the awe-inspiring, seven story archival collection that is hidden in the back of Joseph Merrick Jones Memorial Hall, called the Louisiana Research Collection, or ‘the LaRC’. The archives consist of a magnitude of collections that contain all kinds of historical Louisiana resources, including books, theses, documents, periodicals, images, and much more. The organization aims to safely preserve the fragments of our state’s history and provide the student population with easy access to them in order to enrich our students’ education and research. Open from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. Monday through Friday and 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. on Saturday, all students are welcome to the LaRC where they will be happily assisted by workers who will retrieve requested archived material. All in all, the collection exists to enrich academic research and foster our students’ understanding and appreciation of the state’s history.

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One of the LaRC’s newest projects is to create a collection focusing 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. The newest collection will essentially be created from scratch, starting with approximately fifteen large boxes of mixed material, from national magazines to personal letters to organization meeting minutes and rare, local periodicals. In order to effectively organize the material, this project has three phases: the first, already completed, was to weed out unnecessary material and broadly categorize the remaining sources into collections of ephemera, local periodicals, national publications, non-Louisiana material, and finally archival material which will make it into the final collection. The next step will be to orderly folder and box the material, actually producing an organized collection. Finally, an online catalog will be made to correspond with the material, enabling the public to call items from the closed archives to use for educational and research purposes.

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“I think there will be lots of hidden gems,” predicted Leon C. Miller, the head of the collection.

As the material was largely donated from several of Louisiana’s queer organizations, the project requires minimal funding as its only expenses are the special folders and boxes needed to preserve the materials organized.

When I was asked to intern with the LaRC and oversee the collection, I eagerly accepted. I am to diligently comb through all of the material, determine if it belongs in the collection, and organize it accordingly. As a history and political science major that was an active leader in Tulane’s LGBTQA community throughout the 2010 – 2011 academic year, I hope to use my skill set and passion for history to create a top-notch collection. 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 inspiring history of Louisiana’s queer population, which has become more acknowledged and accepted throughout the years.

Indeed, I have found an abundance of interesting material. The LaRC was given about four boxes of books; some will be generously donated to the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Mosaic Lounge, which is used by Tulane’s queer student groups, while the rest will be sent to other book drives. We currently hold issues from over 30 national publications, including Tangents and One, two of the oldest queer-interest magazines that date back to the early 1960s. Additionally, we have over 15 publications that are specific to Louisiana, many centered in New Orleans, such as queer-interest newspapers Impact, Ambush, and Southern Voice. Since we cannot hold on to material that is not from Louisiana, we have two boxes of materials from other states that will be shipped to the archives in those respective states. Further, we have a large amount of ephemera, which includes flyers, brochures, pamphlets, and other hand-outs. The crux of the collection is found in our archival material. At the end of the project, the LaRC will feature organized groupings of the financial paperwork, meeting minutes, membership lists, correspondences, and much more of several Louisiana LGBTQA groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans (LGCNO), the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus (LAGPAC), Central Lousiana Aids Support Services (CLASS), Human Equal Rights for Everyone (HERE), the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chamber Choir, among others. Thanks to activists who held onto any and all viable material, such as Skip Ward, a resident of Alexandria, Louisiana who could possibly be credited for starting the Louisiana queer rights movement, our collection has many treasures to preserve and share with students.

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