Texas Digital Library Conference System, 2014 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

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Digitizing San Antonio’s LGBTQ publications: A Portal to the City’s Queer Past
Melissa Gohlke

Last modified: 2014-03-25


Too often in the past, records of gay, lesbian, and transgender persons have been discarded or destroyed sending important filaments of history into the trash bin of time. Fortunately, queer publications that survive provide vital glimpses into the evolution of the communities that produced them and are an important source of ascertaining how gay, lesbian, and transgender organizations and individuals perceived and reacted to the world around them, built communities, and captured the pulse of their evolving culture. As interest in queer history and culture grows, efforts to collect, preserve, and digitize LGBTQ materials have intensified. The long-term benefits of preserving queer records such as LGBTQ serials through the digitization process cannot be understated. As more materials are digitally preserved and made available, opportunities for access and conservancy are greatly expanded. This presentation will cover one such opportunity at the UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

 In 2012, UTSA Libraries Special Collections began a collaborative project with the Happy Foundation, a San Antonio non-profit GLBT archives. The project entailed digitization of several decades of queer periodicals housed at the foundation. This effort coincided with the purchase of a Zeutschel overheard scanner by the UTSA Libraries. The process included pickup, transport, digitization, and return of loaned periodicals and finally, ingest of digital objects and metadata into CONTENTdm. Two challenges came to light during the project:  1) tracking down publication creators to secure permission to digitize items and make them available on the internet 2) handling content that might be perceived as extremely provocative, pornographic, or possibly offensive.

 At present, the UTSA Libraries Special Collections staff has digitized the bulk of local queer serials held at the Happy Foundation. These represent the basis of UTSA Special Collections Digital GLBTQ Publications collection which includes the Calendar, the Marquise, River City Empty Closet, Out in San Antonio, and San Antonio Community News. WomanSpace and Rainbow Garden Club newsletter, also included in the digital collection, are physical records held at UTSA Special Collections. While the Digital GLBTQ Publications collection features primarily San Antonio periodicals, issues of queer serials from elsewhere are also represented. Several issues of One magazine, the nation’s first homosexual publication, are housed at the Happy Foundation and are available digitally through UTSA. Records donated by local and regional LGBTQ organizations and individuals, such as Lollie Johnson, San Antonio Lesbian Gay Assembly, the Texas Lesbian Conference, and San Antonio activist Michael McGowan augment UTSA Libraries Special Collections digital holdings of queer publications and provide research opportunities for scholars, students, and members of the community.



archives; digital collections; lgbtq digital records

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