We're a social history project working with Leeds Museums and Galleries to collect historical objects and oral histories that reflect and record the LGBT*IQ stories of the city of Leeds. Here's our story so far. (LGBT*IQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Intersex, Queer/Questioning).
Jude Woods (Assistant Community Curator at Leeds Art Gallery), Claire Martin (project volunteer/ PhD Student and Postgraduate Tutor, University of Leeds), Fiona Philip (project volunteer/ Research Fellow, Pararchive project, University of Leeds (at the time)) and Diedre (project volunteer/ Gay Abandon member) represented the group at the Connecting Communities Conference at the University of Leeds in March 2015 (see here for more about the conference: http://pararchive.com/conference/).
We ran a workshop that told the story of the co-curatorial project so far, as well as considering the key questions with which we've found ourselves grappling during the project's early stages. We also invited delegates to reflect and comment upon these issues through their own experiences of similar community projects. It made for a thought-provoking and thoroughly engaging session - thanks to everyone who took part!
These are the questions we discussed:
1. How can community based co-curatorial projects authentically represent the diversity of LGBT*IQ experience?
2. What are the challenges and how can we negotiate conflict when telling controversial, provocative or ‘negative’ aspects of LGBT*IQ stories?
3. How can we avoid telling historical/herstorical stories through ‘rose tinted glasses’?
4. How can community based co-curatorial practice share power when embarking on museum-based storytelling?
5. What Best Practice guidance could we recommend for museum professionals who are engaging with LGBT*IQ stories and communities?
Objects from the Gay Abandon Archive, which is being catalogued as part of the Queer Stories Project. For more information about Leeds' LGB choir, please visit: http://gayabandon.org.uk/ or https://www.facebook.com/GayAbandonChoir Photograph showing part of the Queer Stories pop-up display at the Connecting Communities Conference, University of Leeds, March 2015.
We also created a 'pop-up' display at the conference, showcasing some of the objects we've collected so far. Prominent amongst these were the flamboyant pieces from the Gay Abandon Archive, as well as a number of activist and support pamphlets and significant novels and art books.
Photo board capturing Gay Abandon performances, as well as novels and art books relating to the project. Photograph showing part of the Queer Stories pop-up display at the Connecting Communities Conference, University of Leeds, March 2015.