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Pride Month: Ask not what your museum can do for you

25 May 2024 4 minute read
Pride Cymru

Norena Shopland

In 2021/22 and 2023 the Welsh Government commissioned training in LGBTQ+ Language and History for local museums, libraries, and archives to encourage the celebration of local stories of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

This is part of the work being done on raising awareness and understanding of the diverse population of Wales, and compliments the Welsh Government LGBTQ+ Action Plan which aims to:

  • tackle inequalities experienced by LGBTQ+ communities;
  • challenge discrimination;
  • create a society where LGBTQ+ people are safe to live and love authentically, openly and freely as themselves.

During the training there was several debates on how heritage organisations could adequately represent minority populations, particularly considering severe cuts in funding, a lack of staff, volunteers, money, and expert knowledge.

Participation

There is a saying, Nothing About Us Without Us, a slogan used to communicate the idea that ‘no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy,’ (Wikipedia) a concept that had existed in Europe since the 16th century. The English language version first became popular in disability activism during the 1990s in South Africa.

However, heritage staff are having to face a growing list of celebratory periods which they are expected to cover for various diversities, in addition to national and local anniversaries, and bidding for excessively oversubscribed grants.

Bringing us to the question, who should take responsibility for our own histories?

Perhaps, to paraphrase President Kennedy, ask not what your museum can do for you—ask what you can do for your museum (and archive and library).

Timelines

In this light, I decided to utilise my own research to compile local LGBTQ+ timelines for each of the 22 counties of Wales (plus the historic county of Gwent) – the only country in the world to have this kind of detailed knowledge – and so provide a means by which local people, allies and events can be celebrated instead of replicating mainstream narratives and celebrities.

The Welsh County LGBTQ+ Timeline Collection is open access and can be copied or adapted – but please be respectful and do not present as your own work.

It is hoped that the timelines will be used in a variety of ways, and some tips on how to use them have also been included. They are only available in English as no funding was found to translate them into Welsh.

Some counties in the timelines are rich in history, some less so; some go back to antiquity, some to last century and it is hoped local people will take up the baton and do further research on some of the entries thereby taking ownership of their own history. Or share the timeline stories on social media because visibility is key.

As with much of UK and Welsh history, the entries are dominated by rich white men, working-class stories are hard to find as are diverse races, religions and currently, there is no history of disability in Wales. Of course, absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence we just need people to help search the records, either online through platforms such as Welsh Newspapers Online or by going into local archives where friendly staff will be able to help in any searches.

Research

We also need more research on women, the Dictionary of Welsh Biography has only around 5% of its biographies on women and Wikipedia is not much better with only 19.7% of all international biographies in the English language. This has a knock-on effect in that diverse women are even less represented.

To aid in researching, Glamorgan Archives published a guide Queering Glamorgan (despite the title the methods can be used anywhere) co-written by Daryl Leeworthy and myself. This type of methodology was utilised for A Research Guide to Sources for the Study of Minority Ethnic History published this year and driven by an enormous amount of work by some superb volunteers. It is hoped, in time we can also produce Ethnic Minority timelines for every county.

All this work shows how much there is still to do, and with Pride Month (June) upon us, it may be an appropriate to time consider how you want to see your own history represented. And, perhaps you could ask not what heritage organisations can do for you, but what you can do for your museum, library, and archive.


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Adrian
Adrian
8 days ago

Even a cursory examination the evidence will show that the so-called LGBTQ etc. ‘community’ doesn’t” even exist. As far as the mythical oppression goes, is there any sector of society that is more celebrated, venerated and pandered to than ‘trans’ people? They now have their own flag for God’s sake! Please remember that the gender identity hypothesis has no grounding in science, evidence or objective reality: it’s a faith-based belief system. Humans cannot change sex, and there’s no possibility of being ‘born in the wrong body’. One day we’ll look back at this nonsense and winder what the hell we… Read more »

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