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Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis

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By Miranda Rectenwald

October 3, 2016: As LGBT History Month begins, here is an overview of a new way St. Louis is tracking its local LGBTQ history. Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis is an interdisciplinary humanities project that centers on the LGBTQ experience with the divided city. Between spring 2016 – spring 2017 students, researchers, faculty, archivists, librarians, and interested people from the St. Louis-area are gathering historical information about places connected to people in the queer* community from 1945 – 1992. Then the information will be organized and the mapping tools of GIS used to show addresses and sites on a digital map (think google maps – but with history). The initial set of data and public interface is anticipated to debut in March 2017.

This project began with a 2016 grant proposal by librarian Makiba Foster and faculty member Andrea Friedman, Associate Professor of History and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, as part of the Center for the Humanities Divided Cities Initiative.  Community partners also include the Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis LGBT History Project. The project follows in the footsteps of similar projects, such as the ONE Archive’s California Pride and  Globaltraqs.

The original grant proposal included the following description: Through an examination of queer uses of space within the built environment, we will explore how sexuality divides cities and how urban spaces are implicated in the division of queer communities around race, gender, and class. Using GIS mapping to visual document these sites of transgression in historical time and space, the project will identify patters of sexual segregation, analyze how these reflect, reinforce and reproduce other axes of division, and ask what we can learn about the possibilities of resistance in the urban landscape. The final product – an interactive map available to the public via a digital portal – will allow a board audience access to the social uses of space in postwar (1945 – 1992) St. Louis, using artifacts and archival materials as well as information about historical context to bring alive the experience of living in a city divided by sexual identity and practice, gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

Project organizers include: From Washington University: Andrea Friedman, Associate Professor of History and WGSS; Makiba Foster, research consultant (former Curator of Oral History and WGSS Librarian); Aaron Addison, Director of Scholarly Services WU Libraries; Jennifer Moore, GIS & Data Projects Manager and Anthropology Librarian; Bob Hansman, Associate Professor School of Architecture; Miranda Rectenwald, Curator of Local History. From Community Partner organizations: Sharon Smith, Curator of Civic and Personal Identity, Missouri History Museum; Chris Gordon, Director of Library & Collections, Missouri History Museum; Steven Brawley, St. Louis LGBT History Project; Ian Darnell, Ph.D candidate University of IL, Chicago.

This summer (2016) the project focused on locations of social interaction such as hang-outs, bars, taverns, clubs, and other gathering sites in the city and county of St. Louis, plus eastern metropolitan areas in Illinois.

Keep up with the project via this blog.

Story adapted from July 5, 2016 blog post.

Image coutesy of St. Louis LGBT History Project.


Copyright Steven Louis Brawley, 2007-Present. All Rights Reserved.