Queer Republic of Cork

Poster Exhibition-page-001The Queer Republic of Cork Exhibition opened in Camden Palace community arts centre in Cork on 25 August 2016.  This Exhibition was organised by Orla Egan, Cork LGBT Archive, as part of the Irish Heritage Week.

This Exhibition took visitors on a journey through the development of the Cork Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities from the 1970s onwards.

Cork has a long and rich history of LGBT activism, community formation and development. Since at least the 1970s LGBT people in Cork have forged communities, established organisations, set up services and reached out to others.  As well as campaigning for LGBT rights and providing services and supports to LGBT people, the LGBT community has played a vital role in movements for social justice and political change in Cork.  Yet this community, like many other LGBT communities worldwide, has been largely invisible in historical accounts and its contribution to social and political change and developments largely unacknowledged.

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Exhibition launch

Queer Republic of Cork Exhibition Launch 25 August 2016

The Queer Republic of Cork exhibition highlighted some key moments, organisations, campaigns and triumphs in the history of the Cork LGBT Community. It showcased some of Cork’s firsts – the 1st National Gay Conference (1981), the 1st Irish AIDS leaflet (1985), the 1st Irish Lesbian and Gay Festival (1991) and the 1st LGBT float in a Patrick’s Day Parade (1992).  The Exhibition then moved through the decades, 1970s to 2000, focusing on Cork LGBT community organisations and activism.

Feedback Paul McAndrew

The response to the Exhibition was very positive with people delighted to see and explore some of the history of this dynamic community.  The Exhibition was just a small sample of the items contained in the Cork LGBT Archive.   To see more visit the digital archive on http://corklgbtarchive.com/

Orla, Orla, Arthur, Dave Exhibition launch

Carol O Keeffe, Orla Murphy, Orla Egan, Arthur Leahy, Dave Roche

The core of the archive is organised around the Arthur Leahy collection – a private collection gathered by Arthur Leahy since the 1970s, and containing a rich collection of leaflets, posters, newsletters and other items relating to the history of the Cork LGBT community.  It was appropriate then that the Exhibition was formally launched by Arthur Leahy.  Orla Egan spoke of the importance of acknowledging and sharing the history of the Cork LGBT community and the decades of activism and community formation.  Both Arthur and Orla spoke of the importance of creating a more inclusive and accurate account of Irish LGBT history.

John Feedback

The Exhibition was organised as part of National Heritage Week.  The Cork LGBT Archive has recently received funding from the Irish Heritage Council for the proper storage and cataloguing of the archive collection – this funding marked an important acknowledgment of LGBT history as part of Irish heritage.  Further funding has since been secured from the Cork City Council Heritage Publication grant for a publication on the History of the Cork LGBT Community (this will be published by December 2016).

The Cork LGBT Archive is very grateful to Camden Palace for hosing the exhibition.  A huge thanks to Peter Flynn, UCC, who loaned his printer to enable the exhibition to be created!  Jess Jones, Carol O Keeffe and Jacob Egan-Morley assisted with hanging the exhibition and hosting / filming the launch.

The Exhibition can be viewed in Camden Palace, John Redmond Street, Cork, each day 12-6 until 3 September 2016.
Carol filming launchInstalling the Exhibition August 2016Jess and Jacob

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Exhibition 1980 conference wall

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Queer Connections and Inspiration

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.24.40It was like my bookshelf came to life!  The Gay American History @ 40 conference in New York in May 2016 gave me a unique opportunity to meet with and engage with my ‘heroes’, the LGBT scholars whose pioneering work has inspired and stimulated my own work.

I have long admired, and been inspired by, the work Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 19.01.00of John D’Emilio, Jonathan Ned Katz, Esther Newton and the many other LGBT historians who gathered together at this conference – their scholarship and activism has motivated me to want to work on documenting, analysing and sharing the rich history of the Cork LGBT community.  At the early stages of my own work on the Cork LGBT Archive, John D’Emilio had taken the time to engage in email discussions with me, providing invaluable advice and encouragement.  It was a pleasure then to be able to meet him at the conference, to be able to meet and engage with my ‘heroes’ and to be present for a stimulating, and at times heated, discussion on the current state of LGBT history.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 09.32.25Gay American History @ 40 was a combination conference, a reunion of academic / activist comrades and a tribute to the inspirational work of Jonathan Ned Katz.  The conference marked the fortieth anniversary of Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the USA (1976) and it provided an opportunity to discuss the ways in which theories, categories, research methods and priorities have been constructed, challenged, and reconstructed over the last forty years of historical research on sexuality and gender.

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Different Lenses

Collaboration

Collaboration, openness and sharing are key operating principles of Digital Humanities.  “Collaboration is widely considered to be both synonymous with and essential to Digital Humanities (DH).” Julianne Nyhan and Oliver Duke Williams   Such a spirit of collaboration and openness guides my work in developing the Cork LGBT Archive.  I am lucky to have access to a rich source of materials in the Arthur Leahy Collection and other smaller collections of documents, posters, newsletters and other items relating to the rich history of the Cork LGBT community.  See my earlier post on the archive here.  The Cork LGBT Digital Archive aims to preserve these materials and to make them accessible and available through sharing them on www.corklgbtarchive.com

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Alisha and Josef

This commitment to collaboration led me to engage recently with the Exhibitionist Society – a group of third year photography students from the Dublin Institute of Technology.  “The Exhibitionist’s Society in Dublin Institute of Technology was established in 2016 with the central aim of creating an environment where students who have an interest in the Arts can work collaboratively with others, both inside and outside the college environment. This will allow students to build networks and connections while working creatively, utilising space and establishing their working practices.”

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Alisha and Josef

One of the members of the Exhibition Society, Alisha Doody, was aware of my work in developing the Cork LGBT Archive and contacted me to ask if I would collaborate with them on a group project.  Alisha and Joesf Kovac visited the archive on 29 February to explore the materials, and Josef returned a few weeks later to photograph some items for their exhibition.

It was really exciting for me to see how these talented photographers engaged with the materials in a

Josef Kovoc

Josef Kovoc

different way to me – how they explored them from a different perspective, through a new lens and to see how they focused on image and content and symbolism.

The Exhibitionist Society also engaged with the National Photographic Archive and with Belfast Exposed.   They developed a website Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance in which they displayed and Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 16.34.16engaged with the materials found in the various archives.  It is a fresh and dynamic perspective on LGBT history.  “Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance deals with the politics of the archive and the subsequent visibility or invisibility of LGBT identity and queer Ireland by looking at the collected material in three archives, well established and in development……This website developed to present the findings from our engagement with the archives, archivists, researchers and curators. We focused on ephemera and photographs relating to ‘parade’ and ‘community’ to inquire how photography has been used to activate public attention, change public opinion and re-present LGBT movements and much of this material has not been exhibited in the public domain before.”

jkovaccork_08Last night I attended the launch of the website at the new Brunswick Collective in Dublin.  It was wonderful to walk in and see images from the Cork LGBT Archive displayed on the walls, including a giant copy of the poster for the third National Lesbian and Gay Conference in 1983.

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Scan of leaflet

One wall held a display of items from the Cork archive.  It was so interesting to see items with which I am so familiar, displayed in such a different way.  One example is the leaflet for the first National Gay Conference in Cork in 1981.  I have scanned this item, providing a clear image in which the text can easily be read.   This has then been uploaded to the Cork LGBT Archive with attached metadata.

Josef Kovac photo

Josef Kovac photo

While clear and legible, the scan of the leaflet produced a flat image.  Josef Kovac photographed the same leaflet and this was displayed last night.  His image is much more three dimensional than the scan – it makes you want to reach out and pick up the leaflet.  For me this showed so clearly the importance  and benefits of enabling different people with different skills and perspectives to engage with the materials in the archive.

Another tangible benefit of the collaboration is that the Exhibitionist Society are going to donate the mounted photographs to the Cork LGBT Archive – a great start to building an exhibition for the archive.  And there are promises of further collaboration in extending this exhibition material!

Congratulations to all in the Exhibitionist Society for your work in creating Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance.

Here is a link to a video of some of my speech at the launch of Aunt Sally’s Tea Dance on 28 April 2016 – apologies for the poor quality but at least it gives a flavour of the event.  (The video is in two parts.)

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What I Wish I Knew Before I Started: Reflections on DPC Conference on Digital Preservation

I was delighted to win the DRI / DAH PhD Scholarship to attend the Digital Preservation Coalition conference in London on 22 January 2016- What I Wish I Knew Before I Started.   See my reflections on the conference in my guest blog on the DRI site and on the DAH PhD site.  Click here to read the blog.   Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.10.38

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Copyright Issues for Community Digital Archives

I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog for the UCC Faculty of Law’s Blog on Copyright Issues for Community Digital Archives.  Check it out here.

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Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist

Lost in Digital WorldI am a Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist.

My Digital Humanities project, creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive, is a truly multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary project – it requires me to understand and engage with a number of different fields and disciplines, including History, Social History, LGBT History, Archives, Community Archives, Digital Archives, as well as understanding the how of doing it digitally.  Not a challenging task at all!!!!

A lot of the time it seems as if I am floundering in a land I don’t know, where Ciismaniyapeople speak a language I do not understand.  The Humanities side is fine, I speak that language, but I’m new to the Digital.

And yet I keep trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always learning through the process.  As Samuel Beckett said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.’

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