Thanks to the new exhibit hang next to the elevators on the first floor of Cabell Library, the achievements of key LGBT figures are brought to light.
“Migrating Archives: LGBT Delegates from Collections Around the World” was created by San Francisco based artist E.G. Crichton, who is also an art professor at University of California-Santa Barbra. The archives are a collection of different images and descriptions of one or two archives of LGBT history from a specific institution or organization. These institutions are from all over the world, and VCU’s contribution is the only U.S. installment within the piece.
The majority of the archives submitted to Crichton represent a person, usually deceased. The exhibit was first displayed in San Francisco’s GLBT History Museum.
“Once I knew the exhibit was ending in San Francisco, I asked if there was a possibility that it travel to other institutions as well, and E.G. was like, ‘yeah!’ so it’s here now, until the end of December with the possibility of an extension,” said Wesley Chenault, PhD., VCU’s head of special collections and archives.
Crichton was at VCU last Monday for a discussion about the project, process and ideas that gave the exhibit form for the opening of the exhibit at the library.
“I recommended we submit Hunter Stag as our delegate, and we found some really interesting materials in our collections,” Chenault said. “They are very unique pieces because he was in correspondence with huge literary figures at the time—Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein—but he was really just an ordinary person.”
October is National Archives month and LGBT history month. Liz Canfield, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at VCU, said it was fitting the exhibit would be erected at this time.
“I think it’s fantastic that VCU Libraries has brought this exhibit to our campus during LGBT History Month,” Canfield said. “It’s truly an innovative exhibit, and beautifully curated and displayed. What is so exciting is that it blends archival history, art and people’s lives to show the complex and diverse histories of LGBTQ people.”
When Crichton put out the call for “delegates” to represent the different organizations and institutions in her exhibit, she was looking for personal papers and not organizational records, Chenault said.
“Hunter Stagg really fits E.G.’s vision of having real people represented, some we know a lot about some that we know very little about,” Crichton said. “There’s diversity represented in nationality, race, and all kinds of privilege. There’s no one container, there’s no one type that LGBTQ represents, it’s diversity within diversity,”
The exhibit will be available through December. Alex Eliades, a history major, said he thinks all students should take advantage of this opportunity.
“With the sudden and dramatic shift we’ve seen towards gay rights in the past few years, it’s important to see an exhibit like this one, Eliades said. “Seeing the progress and sacrifices LGBT people have made in our nation’s history not only generates greater appreciation for their struggle, but inspires one to keep up the fight for the human rights of all.”
Chenault agreed, and said the meaningfulness of the exhibit is the depiction of systems of privilege and disprivilege through art, as well as the global context of the issue.
“I think for students at a very simple level it’s the idea that there are LGBT people everywhere and there are institutions that document, preserve, and care for these materials and history,” Chenault said. “While each ultimately has a different mission, the thread that ties them together is the commitment to documenting and sharing information about people who have traditionally been underrepresented or made invisible.”
While the artwork hangs on the wall of the first floor of the library, VCU’s archives, which hold a similar history, are kept on fourth floor of the Cabell Library. Both Chenault and Canfield said they encourage students to visit the special collections and archives.
“The exhibit is highly accessible to everyone and extremely interesting to encounter,” Canfield said. “This shows the vision and talent of our Special Collections and Archives librarians here at VCU, who are continually working to make our own archives accessible and useful to the VCU community. We have a rich archive of LGBTQ history in our own library as well.”
Chenault also said with the huge art presence, the combination of LGBT history month and national archive month and VCU’s commitment to inclusivity, the exhibit seemed perfect.
VCU’s archives are open for free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.