Organizers of New Archive Want to Hear Kansas City's LGBT History

As 2009 passes into the past, a new project to preserve the history of LGBT Kansas City-area residents is set to get underway.

It’s a collaboration among the UMKC Miller Nichols Library, the Kansas City Museum and Jackson County (Mo.) Historical Society to be known as the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America, GLAMA for short. GLAMA’s principals hope to solicit residents’ oral histories, memories and memorabilia.

The initial emphasis will be on gathering soon-to-be lost tales of Kansas City’s gay past. Organizers are looking to a pioneer in the field of regional LGBT history, Tami Albin, the University of Kansas librarian who created “Under the Rainbow: Oral Histories of GLBTIQ People in Kansas.” The GLAMA team has also enlisted the help of local historian Ross Freese. Another healthy Missouri paradigm exists in the form of OLGA (Ozarks Lesbian and Gay Archives) housed at the Department of Special Collections and Archives at Missouri State University in Springfield.

The primary home for GLAMA is to be in the LaBudde Special Collections Department of UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library. The process of finding local people willing to share stories, conducting audio interviews and archiving these oral histories is sure to be a challenge, said Stuart Hinds, head of LaBudde. Hinds has wanted to take on a gay history project since graduate school.

Although the initial emphasis will be on oral histories, from the grandiose to the mundane, there will likely be those who have secret troves of tchotchkes, souvenirs and other tangible goodies. A very small number of those might be considered for archiving – library, museum and historical society space is at a premium.

The Kansas City Museum has already accepted one such collection.

Community volunteer Mike Sugnet, a former Camp columnist and ad sales representative, has donated his two decades worth of AIDS Walk T-shirts to the museum, and the collection has been transformed into one of the museum’s Exhibits-in-Print. “What We Did for Love: AIDS Walk T-Shirt Collection” is exemplary of what the Kansas City Museum does: It collects, preserves and displays contemporary materials and it validates the experiences Kansas Citians – in this case, LGBT Kansas Citians.

The museum is now undergoing renovation but curators, archivists and others are doing their best to keep the collections obtrusive.

“Physical exhibits are on hiatus in deference to the renovation process underway at the site. 2010 will see a full complement of the Exhibits-in-Print presented online,” said Christopher Leitch, director, Kansas City Museum at Corinthian Hall.

Copies of the Exhibit-in-Print version of “What We Did for Love” will be available for purchase at the Kansas City Museum’s visitor center at 3218 Gladstone Blvd. A limited number may be ordered through the Friends of Kansas City Museum (friendsofkansascitymuseum.org). Proceeds will benefit AIDS Walk Kansas City.

Hinds and Leitch’s third institutional partner in GLAMA is represented by David W. Jackson, the director of archives and education at the Jackson County (Mo.) Historical Society in Independence, Mo. (jchs.org).

If you have unique personal stories of Kansas City’s gay past or if you’re the caretaker of a personal cache of LGBT-related artifacts, give Hinds a call or email.

We’ll be checking back with the GLAMA committee later to see how things are progressing.
Contact:
GLAMA – the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America
GLAMA Web page
Stuart Hinds Head, LaBudde Special Collections Department
hindss@umkc.edu
816-235-5712
Miller Nichols Library
University of Missouri-Kansas City

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Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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