UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

University Archives set to hold records of the LGBTQ+ Community in Boston until August

Although incidental, UMass Boston’s archives is holding onto a portion of materials from the History Project, a community-run organization dedicated to preserving and documenting queer history in the city of Boston. The History Project hosts a large array of materials unearthed from other archives in order to keep events and information about their community from getting buried, as well as to keep memorabilia of individual LGBTQ+ stories accessible, especially after having to censor or deny the attention these objects deserve for so long. A lot of the work done to keep this organization thriving is through volunteers. At UMass Boston, this is largely the effort of graduate students as well as through the efforts of Andrew Elder, who is both the chair of the Board of the History Project, as well as the UMass Boston’s archivist and curator of Special Collections.

Elder has been volunteering with the organization since 2006 and put great emphasis on the importance of the LGBTQ+ community’s action in having this history be preserved, as it provides a more personal perspective on the information presented, versus the narrative or meaning that an institution may add into it. Archives as a whole traditionally left the documentation of events and experiences to be done far after the events occurred, but many have adopted the modern approach of adding to their collections now, rather than needing to fill in gaps that the passage of time would leave behind. Some of the efforts to repair the gaps in knowledge, as well as to continue pushing forward in their historical documentation, can be seen in the project’s book, “Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to the Playland.” It carries the reader through the individual experiences and identities of LGBTQ+ people throughout Boston’s history and establishes a connection between the historical and modern LGBTQ+ community in the city.

Elder also talked about how the UMass Boston Archives’ lack of formal collection policy leaves space for a wide variety of interests, with social action and community organization being major subjects of preservation. UMass Boston’s overall focus on community welcomes other archives in the process of expanding their own files. “[UMass Boston] provides a safe place for organizations to store their archives. We’ve done it for Milton, and for Roxbury, and now for the History Project,” Elder stated as he spoke about the materials currently being stored within the archives. These materials include but are not limited to: documentation of the city’s first Pride march in 1971, photos of older gay clubs and drag performers and information on the effects of the AIDS crisis.

The LGBTQ+ community has been dedicated to preserving their history within this organization since they started it in the 1980s, and the efforts show through the many newspapers, marriage certificates, wedding invitations and other items saved from getting lost to time. Their extensive collection goes far beyond what UMass Boston is currently holding on to until this August and is available for further exploration. UMass Boston students interested in researching or accessing these records can reach out to the History Project’s website www.historyproject.org to further discuss what information is accessible through UMass Boston’s archival system, as well as what’s on display in their other locations, such as the one located in Copley Square.