Busy month in the life of a LGBT Digital Historian!

Rainbow Flag City Hall August 2014My website http://corklgbthistory.com/ was this week voted Runner Up for Best Blog Post / Series of Posts in the DH Awards.   The awards are nominated and voted for entirely by the public. These awards are intended to help put interesting DH resources in the spotlight and engage DH users (and general public) in the work of the community.

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The DH Awards have provided a useful platform for visibility of the corklgbthistory site and an opportunity to have Queer work more visible within the Digital Humanities world.  I developed the corklgbthistory site to begin to display a chronology of the development of the Cork LGBT community, to showcase some of the materials which will form part of the LGBT Digital Archive I am developing, and to stimulate interest and engagement in the project.  Hopefully the DH Award will help to further these aims.

It has been a busy month for this LGBT Digital Historian (I guess that’s what I am now!).

lights-camera-web (1)In mid February I attended the LGBT History Festival in Manchester.  I was delighted to introduce and screen the Cork film, Out and About, produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork LGBT community.  The film is a historical LGBT walking tour of Cork, presented by myself and John Dunlea.  I was particularly delighted and excited to have this film screened alongside the BAFTA award winning film Pride.  This was particularly appropriate as the Cork LGBT community has always been conscious of the importance of forging links and working in solidarity with other social change movements, similar in many ways to the solidarity shown in the Pride film between the lesbian and gay community and the striking miners.

The LGBT History Festival in Manchester had a wealth of interesting presentations and events.  It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with other LGBT Historians and Archivists.  It was particularly interesting to meet the team from Bergen University in Norway who are developing a LGBT Archive, SKEIVT ARKIV, with the support and resources of the university.  It was exciting to meet people doing similar work, but I found myself more than a little jealous of the resources and support they obtained from their university!

Tonie Walsh and Orla Egan

Tonie Walsh and Orla Egan

The following week found me in OutHouse LGBT Community Centre in Dublin discussing the Cork LGBT Archive alongside Tonie Walsh of the Irish Queer Archive.  The event was organised as part of LGBT History Month.  Tonie is one of the few Irish based people who shares my passion and obsession with LGBT history and the importance of preserving and sharing our history.  We fed off each other’s enthusiasm and stories and this led to an interesting and engaged discussion with the participants.


Ma Graduation

MA DAH 2015

Then at the end of February I graduated with an MA in Digital Arts and Humanities.  While we can be MA DAH 2015 cynical about the pomp and ceremony of such events, I think that it is important sometimes to take time to stop and acknowledge achievements and milestones in one’s life.  I know that for me doing the MA in DAH was challenging on many levels.  I put myself completely out of my comfort zone, studying an area that was new to me.  It was also challenging on a personal level as I juggled the responsibilities of parenting (primarily solo) with a crazy study schedule and other personal commitments.  The graduation ceremony provided an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the year and to express my gratitude to those who supported me during the year and to those who dragged me, kicking and screaming and protesting, into the exciting new world of Digital Humanities!


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Omeka vs Wordpress

There is no doubt that the enormous technological developments of recent decades have fundamentally changed how we ‘do history’. In particular they have created a plethora of new possibilities for the preservation and presentation of historical and archival materials.   While this is primarily positive, enabling the preservation and display of historical documentation that may otherwise be lost forever, it is not without challenges. Foremost amongst these for historians is assessing what digital tool or tools to use for capturing, analysing, presenting and sharing this material.

Cohen and RosenzweigIn Digital History Cohen and Rosenzweig explore how “new media and new technologies have challenged historians to rethink the ways that they research, write, present and teach about the past.” The book is designed essentially to be a practical handbook on how to create digital history. In the introduction they stress that “we need to critically and soberly assess where computers, networks, and digital media are and aren’t useful for historians…..in what ways can digital media and digital networks allow us to do our work as historians better?”

If one agrees that, on balance, it is worth doing history digitally, then how does one go about it? How do we choose from the plethora of tools available? For my work I am particularly interested in the development of digital archives and in digital tools that enable the storage, display and sharing of digitised materials.   However, there seems to be some confusion and disagreement about what a digital archive is  not to mention what are the best digital tools to use to create one.   There are many tools, both open source and commercial, to choose from. As Carolyn Li-Madeo states: “Digital Archives are easier to create than ever before, utilizing content management systems such as Omeka, Drupal, Collective Access or even WordPress, libraries and institutions can share and organize their collections through the web.” Continue reading


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LGBT Digital Archives: Connections and Challenges

Lines of Dissent ConferenceLast Saturday I attended Lines of Dissent, the 12th LGBTQ History & Archives Conference, in London.  It is a such a pleasure, and a rare one at that, for me to sit in a room full of people who share my obsession with unveiling the rich histories of LGBTQ communities and with preserving, archiving and sharing these histories.  It was so exciting to hear of the various archival and historical projects underway and to visit the display stands.

Another rare event, I used twitter to record and share my notes and observations of the Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 13.30.29conference.  Clarie Hayward has created a Storify which brings together the various tweets sent to #linesofdissent during the day.  Having tweeted and retweeted each other throughout the day, we eventually met face-to-face in the bathrooms as the conference was ending!  Good to put a face and voice to the tweets!

Returning from the conference I felt inspired to continue working on the development of the Cork LGBT Digital Archive.  The CorkLGBTHistory site is currently being developed.  I am attempting to create a chronological record of key events and organisations in the development of the Cork LGBT community from the 1970s onwards.  It is very much a work in progress.  Much work needs to be done in terms of digitising images for inclusion in the site.  I am hoping that the site, as it develops, will stimulate people to comment and contribute and to maybe root around in their attics, basements, closets or wherever to locate long forgotten but invaluable artefacts and memorabilia. Continue reading

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The Work Continues

Handing in MastersIt has been some time since I have updated my blog.  Just the minor distraction of finishing my MA in Digital Arts and Humanities!  I handed it in yesterday, accompanied by the wonderful Jacob Egan-Morley.

This is not the end of the journey however.  I am working on the development of a Cork LGBT Digital Archive.  This is a long-term project which will take years to develop and maintain.  Rather than working in isolation I have decided to continue on and do a PhD in Digital Arts and Humanities.  This provides me with the on-going support of a community of scholars and lecturers interested in developing digital humanities projects.

For my MA I developed a website corklgbthistory.com to showcase some of the data which will form the basis of the digital database I am developing.  I would hope that this website would stimulate interest in the project and encourage others to comment or contribute.  This is very much a work in progress.  Now that the MA Thesis is submitted I can get back to the work of updating and developing this website. Rainbow flag city hall

As I emerged from the post-MA haze, I read an interesting post on The Thesis Whisperer on the joys and challenges of being a PhD-Mum.  I guess that’s what I am now!  The term PhD-Mum foregrounds the fact that as parents we juggle and attempt to balance often conflicting demands on our time and attention. It is a far cry from the traditional image of the PhD student with nothing to do apart from spending years engaged in deep-thinking about their subject of choice. As parent-students we try to slot moments of study and reflection into very busy schedules, where we strive to produce stimulating innovative work while also managing to shop, cook, clean, wash clothes, do the homework and be there for our children. In my case this is even more challenging than the situation described by Rebecca Turvill as, on a day-to-day basis, I am a single parent.  Continue reading

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“Homosexuals in Cork” 1978 Radio Programme

2014-07-29 14.01.28The Cork Branch of the Irish Gay Rights Movement (IGRM) was established in 1976.

The aims of the IGRM were to be achieved through

(i) Reform of laws relating to homosexuality

(ii) Removal of social prejudice and misconceptions regarding homosexuality

(iii) Provision of counselling, befriending and social facilities for homosexuals  (Sappphire, Cork IGRM Newsletter, Vol. 1 No. 1 Jan-Feb 78)

On 20 January 1978 members of the Cork Branch of IGRM took place in a radio programme “Homosexuals in Cork”  which2014-07-29 14.01.52 was aired on Cork-About, the Cork RTE programme.  This was significant in drawing attention to the issues affecting gays living in Cork and to highlight the activities and services provided by the IGRM.  Oliver Cogan wrote an article about the programme in Sapphire, the Cork IGRM’s newsletter.  He notes that “Whatever the general consensus of opinion, the programme certainly stimulated discussion.”

Below is a full transcript of the article:

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LGBT Archive and Creativity

This week I have been engaged in creative pursuits, while also trying to make progress towards my aim of creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive.

ComputersBoxesBasementIn an earlier post on Cork LGBT Digital Archive I talked about the rich source of archival material stored in the basement of a house in Cork.  This material has been gathered over the past 30 years.  It relates to the history of the LGBT community in Cork, the Quay Co-op, Safer Sex and AIDS organisations as well as various other campaigns and organisations. 2014-06-12 19.51.03 While it contains many gems, the ‘archive’ is unsorted with information on various organisations mixed in together.

1981GayConferencePosterThis week I began the slow process of trying to sort through the archive, with the assistance of Arthur, Carol, Katherine, John and Fionuala.  We tried to resist the temptation to read through all the fantastic information we found, although we had to admire some of the wonderful posters in the collection.  Initially the information is being sorted into broad categories, such as LGBT Cork, Quay Co-op, AIDS, Environmental, Housing Co-op etc.   Once sorted each category can be catalogued and explored in further depth.2014-06-12 21.50.44

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Cork LGBT Digital Archive

Basement2In the basement of a magnificent house in Cork there are boxes and boxes of old newsletters, posters, letters and other documents collected over the past 35 years by a local activist.  They relate to the activities of various Cork groups, including the lesbian and gay communities, the Quay Co-op, environmental groups and different campaign groups.  It is a rich source of information documenting the activities of these groups and a testament to Arthur’s foresight that it has not all been lost over the years.Arthurbasement

To call this an ‘archive’ would be to suggest a level of organisation that doesn’t exist.  It is a jumble of unorganised boxes, each containing a mix of information relating to different organisations and activities.  There are also old computers which would require some level of expertise to unlock the files contained on them.  ComputersBoxesBasement

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