LGBT History at the Archives

October is a special month here in the Upper Peninsula. The changing of the leaves hits full swing, the temperature takes a sharp downturn, and more often than not we get our first dustings of snow. October also happens to be LGBTQ History Month as well as Archives Month! I had the pleasure of collaborating with Dr. Chet DeFonso, a professor of history at NMU and active member of the LGBTQ organizations on campus, on a tandem celebration of the two events in the form of an Evening at the Archives presentation on the role of archives in the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ Evening at the ArchivesThe archives staff created a wonderful poster to advertise the event around Marquette and the NMU campus.

Dr. Defonso’s presentation centered around the use of archives as a community space for LGBTQ communities at repositories in metropolitan areas across the Midwest and online. He detailed the general historiography of LGBTQ scholarship, and provided examples of archival spaces being used by the LGBTQ community to gather, develop social movements, and create stories and bonds to be passed down to their posterity. One such example is the Leather Archives and Museum ( The Leather Archives serve as a repository for the compilation, preservation and maintenance of leather, kink, and fetish lifestyles.

Kinky collegeKinky Kollege is a collaboration by the nation’s top Alternative Lifestyle Educators to provide a community of fellowship and education related to fetishes and alternative lifestyles. This is just one example of what one might find while perusing the Leather Archives and Museum website.

My own contribution to the event was to detail the collections and resources available in the Upper Peninsula, and, more specifically, here at the NMU archives. Although it may not be readily apparent, we offer a wide variety of collections related to the LGBTQ community! With a cursory glance researchers will find that we have the ALLIES and OUTlook organizational records from 1993-2003. This collection provides documentation of the numerous events hosted by the organizations, constitutional records and meeting minutes, attendance sheets, informational flyers, and clippings of community reactions to their activities and statements. We also have several printed publications by and for the LGBTQ community such as the Aurora newsletter that was dedicated to the dissemination of local and national LGBTQ news to citizens of the Upper Peninsula.

Drag Show PosterOUTlook has hosted the Upper Peninsula Drag Show since 1997 when it made the transition from being the Gay, Bi-sexual, and Lesbian Student Union.

Delving a little deeper into the stacks researchers will find that we offer numerous collections on religious organizations, legislators, and a large collection of newsprints available on microfilm that also have connections to the LGBTQ community. That list is by no means inclusive of all the subjects that may help researchers in their LGBTQ scholarly endeavors. The community at large strengthens when these collections are used for student and non-student papers, publications, and in the pursuit of knowledge. As they gain visibility so too does the history of the LGBTQ community, and in conjunction with the larger national movement for LGBTQ rights, scholars can help do their part to challenge the status quo and create a more accepting societal norm.

A video of the presentation will be available on Youtube, and will be linked to on the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives website under the public presentations heading

Written by Nikki Wilhelm


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