William Way receives grant to support archiving efforts

A local community center received a grant to coordinate archiving efforts.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the William Way LGBT Community Center with nearly $12,000 to host two archive digitization days and three public programs focusing on underrepresented LGBT communities in the center’s John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives.

“The humanities offer us a path toward understanding ourselves, our neighbors, our nation,” said NEH Acting Chairman Jon Parrish Peede in a statement. “These new NEH grants exemplify the agency’s commitment to serving American communities through investing in education initiatives, safeguarding cultural treasures and illuminating the history and values that define our shared heritage.”

The center’s Archives Advisory Committee identified the need to serve underrepresented communities. According to the center’s grant proposal, the committee wishes to “redouble efforts to support and seek out materials from three underrepresented groups within the LGBT community: women, people of color and transgender individuals.”

“Many collecting institutions that focus on LGBT material will have primarily material of white gay men,” said John Anderies, William Way’s director of archives. “We are trying to make an effort to seek out materials from underrepresented communities and to make a space where everyone feels like the material in the archives is their’s and part of their community.”

The grant proposal also outlined the archivists’ intent to “do better” to represent these groups. It notes that throughout the center’s personal papers, roughly 70 percent have gay male subjects while lesbian and transgender subjects comprise only 17 per and 13 percent, respectively. Across these groups, people of color are only represented in 17 percent of the collections.

With this grant, the center plans to recruit a liaison for each of the three communities; use internal and external efforts to advertise the project; and schedule two digitization events. For the latter effort, participants will have the opportunity to create digital files of their personal archives. These events will be held in close proximity to popular local LGBT events, including Pride, Outfest and LGBT History Month in 2018.

Additionally, Anderies said the center will host public programs tentatively scheduled for spring 2019. He said these events will provide lectures, lessons on preserving archives, and the opportunity for individuals to discuss their digitized materials.

Anderies said the center hopes to build “and further enhance relationships” through this project.

“William Way and the Archives have a long history of engaging with all different aspects of the community,” he said. “But there is always room for improvement. I’m really hopeful this will be a means to develop and enhance those relationships for us.”