'Perverse Collections' (PERCOL) asks: how can a critical and nuanced understanding of the evolution of Europe's LGBTQ+ archives be used by scholars, queer and trans community members, and GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector workers to forge sustainable strategies for protecting LGBTQ+ history, and in what ways might this have transformative potential for cultural heritage politics and policy more broadly? To this end, the project will map the growth of Europe's queer and trans archives, from the 1970s to the present; it will comparatively explore the workings of these collections, including their relations to forms of state support, the understandings of LGBTQ+ history they promote locally, nationally, and internationally, and the alternative models of archiving some embody. PERCOL will identify the implications of queer and trans collections for other subaltern archives, as well as the wider cultural heritage sector, in terms of the challenges they present to dominant historical and political narratives, the complex polyphonic community politics they can reveal, and their creative handling of ephemeral experiences.
Working with an array of European cultural heritage institutions, as well as a broad cross-section of invested stakeholders, the project team will draw from the history of Europe's queer and trans archives to model innovative strategies for preserving and sustaining LGBTQ+ cultural heritage. The project is situated in a live political context: as homophobic and transphobic acts of violence and discrimination rise across Europe, fomented in some countries by the prejudicial rhetoric of right-wing political groups, the project will argue for the social, cultural and political value of archiving LGBTQ+ lives and experiences, and for the wider ethical significance of supporting and maintaining a transnational ecology of subaltern collections.
Impacts & Results
PERCOL's researchers will collaborate with an array of invested stakeholders (including other scholars, cultural heritage institutions and their staff, as well as queer/trans communities and political organisations) to achieve its objectives:
- To map, as comprehensively as possible, the growth and spread of LGBTQ+ archives and collections across Europe since the birth of the modern gay rights movement in the 1970s;
- To build a thorough comparative understanding of differing models of operation of these organisations, including their collecting policies, funding strategies, relationship to state support, staffing and management structures, and their audience engagement protocols;
- To situate individual archives within regional, national and international contexts, in order to unpack the ways in which the LGBTQ+ histories housed in particular collections thicken and complicate related geopolitical narratives;
- To propose creative future directions for queer and trans cultural heritage institutions, in ways that ethically afford space for the differing (and often dissonant) perspectives of those in the LGBTQ+ community;
- To interrogate the relationships between queer and trans archives, national legislative approaches towards LGBTQ+ people and their cultural heritage, and broader European ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and equality;
- To identify the relevance and broader lessons of the project findings for other types of subaltern collections, and for the cultural heritage sector as a whole.