A rainbow background that with the word "ARCHIVE" overlaid in white block printing

Celebrate Pride with LGBTQ+ archives in Wisconsin

June 29, 2023 Sigrid Peterson Leave a Comment

Unless we are history buffs or historical researchers, we don’t regularly think about archives, though many of us encounter them at some point — writing a paper for school, investigating our family genealogy, going to see a museum exhibit. And, of course, all of us are informal personal archivists — preserving family photos, scrap booking, saving our childhood diaries, keeping an expanding library of videos on our smartphones.

A combination of historical societies, university and library based archives, community archives, and personal collections hold our collective memory and preserve the evidence historians use to interrogate and construct narratives of our past. Documentaries like this summer’s Wisconsin Pridea two hour history of LGBTQ+ people in Wisconsin — and the books from which it takes inspiration by the Wisconsin historian, LGBTQ+ activist, and public servant R. Richard Wagner, rely on archival records to uncover a hidden and overlooked part of our state’s story.

Facing centuries of discrimination, forced to hide or mask their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, records of the lives of LGBTQ+ people in formal institutional archives were scarce or limited to evidence of encounters with their oppressors — deficient in adequately preserving the deeply human, holistic narratives of LGBTQ+ people, their personal political struggles, everyday lives, joys and victories.

In more recent history, a growing number of libraries and archives have forged a commitment to collecting and preserving LGBTQ+ history and Wisconsin home to a number of these, covered in detail in a story published on the Wisconsin Pride website, “LGBTQ+ Archives as Recorders of Resistance.” Learn how librarians and archivists in Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay have worked with the LGBTQ+ community to carefully preserve their history and make it accessible to us in this a Wisconsin Pride digital article, “LGBTQ+ Archives as Recorders of Resistance,” which profiles the following archives and community collections in the state:

Watch Wisconsin Pride streaming on PBS Wisconsin at pbswisconsin.org/pride and on the free PBS App on all streaming devices.