Queer history exhibit opens at Doheny Library
Queer Worldmaking, one of three exhibits of Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, opened Tuesday in the Treasure Room on the first floor of Doheny Memorial Library.
The exhibition is the largest collaboration between USC Libraries and the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives since the archives became part of USC in 2010. It is the Libraries’ first collaboration with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time art initiative.
ONE Archives Art Collection Curator David Frantz co-curated the three exhibits. He said they wanted to highlight the diversity of the archives, especially with Queer Worldmaking.
“[The exhibit shows] materials from 1945 to the ’80s, so it represents the full historical scope of the exhibition,” Frantz said. “We were interested in presenting materials that are not just LGBTQ activism in Los Angeles, but bits and pieces of tangential interesting stories and objects in ONE’s collection.”
The exhibit in Doheny includes a sampling of early queer newsletters and magazines, personal photos, clothing and masks and other historical artifacts. The other exhibits include about 65 works of art.
“It’s not just books and photographs, but all these artifacts, that tell a story,” Executive Director of Communications and Public Programming Hugh McHarg said. “We want all the people, especially our students, to know that we have these resources and the best way for us to do that is to show them off.”
Vincent Vigil, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said students can learn about the legacy and history of the LGBTQ community from the exhibits.
“It’s important for college youth to understand that movement has been going on for a very long time and to understand that history,” Vigil said.
McHarg said a variety of academic programs use the ONE Archives, including English, sociology, history and journalism, but displaying the archives helps show students what the library has to offer.
“All of the research collection is part of USC Libraries,” McHarg said. “It’s this really broad historic collection that has everything from pulp fiction of the ’50s to photographs of entertainment figures and personal journals of gay activists.”
He also said the objects, while sometimes difficult to store and maintain, are items one can only access through the university.
“Preserving objects that aren’t books or flat objects does present something of a challenge,” McHarg said. “It takes space and it takes time, but they’re very valuable and unique pieces of history that are particularly useful for the academic community at USC.”
Tyson Gaskill, executive director of planning and communications for USC Libraries, said having small exhibits in the library gives students a chance to learn something new outside of the classroom.
“We shine a light on areas that people may know just a little about but not very much. We try to give people a wider viewpoint,” Gaskill said. “That goes for the entirety of our exhibition program. We don’t like to just scratch the surface, we like to dig in to certain areas and bring things to light and contextualize it.”
The other two Cruising the Archive exhibits, Rare Looks and Wink Wink, are displayed at the ONE Archives at 909 West Adams Blvd. and the ONE Archives Gallery & Museum at 626 N. Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood.