June 7, 2018 - 11:00am
VIU and Nanaimo Pride Society collaborate to preserve society’s historical archives
Instead of stashing away memories, VIU is helping the Nanaimo Pride Society preserve their history and present it for an online audience.
In the spring of 2017, Kathleen Reed, Librarian at Vancouver Island University (VIU), noticed a Facebook posting that the Nanaimo Pride Society (NPS) was forming a history committee.
“I thought it was great they are collecting all of these memories, but I hoped it didn’t just get stored away in a box somewhere,” she says.
Reed approached the group to ensure that didn’t happen.
The VIU Library and NPS signed an agreement to collaborate on digitizing the society’s historical archives and make them accessible online. The content includes posters, text of speeches to council, newsletters, city declarations for Pride Week, video interviews and more.
“It was a very happy day for us when we were approached by VIU with their offer. It far exceeded what we originally had hoped,” says E.T. Turner, Chair of the NPS History Committee.
This partnership is the first of its kind for the VIU Library, though they hope to continue to work with other community groups and heritage organizations to preserve cultural memories. “It is important to capture the spirit of the region, not solely for VIU students and researchers, but for the whole community,” says Reed.
To further add to the collection, the team undertook a research project to record the stories of 9 LGBTQ2+ elders in the community. The interviews share reflections on identifying as LGBTQ2+ and are available online with the rest of the collection.
The project was funded by the Asper Award from the VIU Research Office, which allowed the group to hire media studies work-op student Tara McGinn to produce the interviews.
In one of the interviews, Rick Dagg, a 63year-old gay man, reflects that coming out is a constant process.
“I was 21 when I was finally able to take that step,” he says. “I struggled for many years to come to that step.”
Dagg remembers when he first came out in 1978, the views of society were completely different.
“We were classified as a disorder. We had no legal protections. We could get kicked out of our homes or be fired from our jobs,” he recalls. “Today we have equal marriage and protection under the law, but there is still a lot we need to focus on.”
Turner says the interviews also record the society’s attempts to get city council to acknowledge a pride day, which started in the ʾ90s.
In 2000, the Nanaimo Pride Committee (NPC) approached the city to proclaim Gay Pride Day, but half of council walked out of the meeting. In 2002, Gay Pride Day in Nanaimo was officially proclaimed.
During these first marches, “we would have people showing up holding anti-gay signs and yelling discriminating language, yet we continued to march never the less,” Turner remembers.
Pride Week has expanded exponentially over the last three years, with over 10,000 people in attendance last year. The Nanaimo parade celebration has become the third largest in BC.
“Some people ask why we don’t have straight week and I say straight people have a parade every day. We have had decade’s long struggles in order to be able to express ourselves,” says Turner. “We want our straight allies to participate in pride week. The more we get to know each other, the better it is, and that is when barriers fall down.”
Barriers will continue to come down as the LGBTQ2+ community and allies join together in Pride Week this June 5– 9. For event details check out Nanaimo Pride.
For Dagg, documenting celebrations like Pride Week and digitizing NPS’s history is incredibly important.
“I am so happy we are trying to capture history because otherwise you run a higher risk of losing what you gain if you are not aware of where you come from,” he says.
To view the digital archives and interviews, visit Nanaimo Pride Society Collection.
Rae-Anne LaPlante, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
Tags: Teaching and Learning