Chapter 12 Introduction to Transgender Studies (see upload file) gives you some various ideas about archives and what can be found in them. Perhaps the most important “take away” from Chapter 12 is that you do not necessarily have to be at a Trans specific or even LGBTQ+ specific archive to find Trans archives – look at Harrison Apple’s essay, for example. Luckily, though, there is a growing number of LGBTQ+ focused archives – and even Trans archives more specifically.
For this assignment, you will be choosing an archive that you would like to explore. Here in the Bay Area, we are very lucky to have numerous archives within our reach. For example, the GLBT Historical Society has an archive. If you are interested in the famous disco diva, Sylvester, then you will be thrilled with the archives at the GLBT Historical Society. Or, if you would like to explore the diaries of Lou Sullivan, an out gay trans man, you will need to go to the SF Public Library at the Downtown Main location, and make an appointment to see the archive. This takes a bit more effort, but is well worth it. And, as you know, there is the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive in Vallejo and that Ms. Bob Davis has invited students from this class to come visit. Please if you wind up doing any in-person research – wear a mask and be safe.
There are also online Trans archives if you are not able to go into an actual brick and mortar archive. The two main online archives that would be excellent for students and that are easily accessible are the Digital Transgender Archive and the Transgender Oral History Project. With the Digital Transgender Archive, there are also other excellent archives you can access through their website – for example, NYC Transgender Oral History Project and Country Queers. There is also the University of Victoria’s Transgender Archive – the largest Trans archive in the world. UVic has some items digitized.
Online Archives:
Digital Transgender Archive:
The Tretter Transgender Oral History Project:
University of Victoria Transgender Archive:
NYC Transgender Oral History Project:
Country Queers:
This assignment is more “loosey goosey” than what you may be used to because what you do will entirely depend upon which archive you choose, and then within that archive, what you choose to focus on. More than anything, I want you to have some fun in the archive whether you are in a physical archive or you are surfing around a website and clicking on items in the various collections to see where they take you. What is interesting about them? What compels you? What did it make you think about? The main thing on this assignment is to have fun in the archive and find something you want to write about. I am expecting about 5 pages double spaced – 1500 words – but it is open what you will be writing about. Think of the ways that an archive like the one you have chosen functions. How can it be useful in our day-to-day lives? Why is it important to have an archive like this? How do you see the ideas about Trans people evolving in the archives?
At the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive, you could find some of the underground newsletters really interesting. You could compare 3-4 different newsletters from different regions. Or, if you are interested in Transvestia, you could choose 3 different volumes and compare the ways the journal changes over time. You could choose volumes that are a few years apart. Or, you could compare 3 volumes in a row.
Also at the LLTA, you could study one of the photo collections Ms. Bob Davis has acquired. There may be absolutely no writing about the images, but if you look at the entire collection, what does it tell you? If you choose something that is solely visual, then you will need to do close readings (your interpretations) of the images – and describe those in the paper.
At the Tretter Transgender Oral History Archive, you could watch the videos and read through the oral histories of 2-3 people of interest to you. Then, you could write about their lives and their experiences. What struck you the most about their story?
At the Digital Transgender Archive or any other digital online archive, you could focus in on one person or one set of issues. For example, if you are in the DTA, you could type in a search on Chevalier/Chevalière D’ Eon. There are numerous items that come up because D’ Eon’s name became synonymous with trans women. So, you will find images of Chevalier/Chevalière as well as underground zines with their name. You could do a comparison of archival images depicting D’ Eon.
Be sure to cite the archive on your project. Some of the digital archives have a place you click on that will tell you how to cite it. For in-person archives at LLTA, Downtown Main, GLBT, or other in-person archives, you will use the archive name and the box number or series number as part of your citation. Remember that a citation is telling someone else how to find what you found.
Finally – remember that if you are in an archive and the people in charge of the archive let you take any photographs, you should not put them out on public display on social media unless you have the permission of the archive. But, if you are using the images for your paper, then you will most likely be granted permission. Always ask. And always ask how they would like it cited.
This assignment is more open-ended and less formal than the book review. I really want you to have some fun with this one! And, I really want each of you to truly explore some archives. The word count should be around 1500 – 2000 words. But, this will vary depending on if you choose to compare two stories from the Transgender Oral History Project (the written transcripts take in an hour long interview so are quite long) or if you are looking at archival visual art or other visual materials.
The 100 point for this assignment reflect that you have chosen something that interests YOU in an archive – whether you visit in person or it is one of the numerous online archives. And then the other major portion of the rubrics focus on what you have done with the archival material. Why did you choose the material that you did?
Choosing archival materials that are clearly of interest to you = 50 points
Writing about the archival materials that are of interest to you and making connections between the various archival pieces = 50 points

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