This Saturday, June 23th, the Dill Pickle Club hosts The Oh So (Queer) History of Portland: A Tour of PDX’s LGBTQ Community. The walking tour highights our city’s past and present queer culture — including the history of the struggle for gay rights and current challenges faced by the LGBTQ community. All this week, we’ll be giving more context to the program on our blog. Today’s featured guest is the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN).
GLAPN is an archive housed at the Oregon Historical Society (OHS). Since 1994, the group has been working to discover and publicize the history of sexual minorities in the Pacific Northwest. I spoke with Geoff Wexler, Interim Library Director at the OHS about the archive.
Q: Tell us about the GLAPN collections…
A: Well, there are several different collections. There’s one that’s the general GLAPN collection, but then there are things like the “No on 9″ campaign. We have a “gay and lesbian organizations collection.” We have the Dignity collection — that was a gay Catholic organization. We also have the collections of a bar, which is still in operation, C.C. Slaughters. There are about 20 of them all together…
Q: What’s the overall scope?
A: There’s at least 200 cubic feet, probably more. There’s papers of individual people and organizations. We have some photographs, but they are scattered throughout the different collections. We are working on one collection right now, which is huge. They are photo albums that we received from a deceased member of the community — there’s probably 100 or so albums, all documenting the different pride marches, mostly from the ’70s and ’80s. There’s a lot of photos of parties — a lot of drag parties. Some of them we’ll have to restrict the material, it’s pornographic. We can’t really show some of those…But those are really interesting in terms of getting a really intimate view of this community from the 1970s.
(Geoff was kind enough to let us create this slideshow of images from the GLAPN collection, from Portland’s gay pride parade in 1987). Read the full story after the jump!
Q: What are some highlights?
A: People don’t realize there’s a history to this community that goes back quite a long time. I give a lot of taks to students at Portland State and they’re in the ealry 20s. They’re shocked that all this stuff has been going on for the last 40 years, so that’s really important.
One of my favorite collections comes from when there were all the same sex marriages in Multnomah County — that was quashed by the referendum. After that referendum, the Multnomah County supervisors asked all the people who had gotten married to send in testimonials about their marriages — including photographs and statements about their relationships. They gave all those materials to us. So it’s kind of a slice of the history of the gay community. Some of these relationships go back to the ’50s and ’60s and they are incredible testimonials. It’s one of my favorite collections.
Another important collection is the Portland Town Council — that was one of the earliest gay rights organization going back to the ’70s. They were responsible for some of the earliest gay rights legislation in Oregon. We have a lot of great publications. Obviously we have Just Out going back to the beginning. We also have a publication called The Fountain going back to the ’70s— that was one of the first gay publications in the Northwest.
Thanks for your time Geoff! Don’t forget — as part of the tour, David Kohl from GLAPN will be talking at several sites, including the Zeus Cafe, the “Gay Triangle,” Mark Spencer Hotel, Foster Hotel and more. It all takes place this Saturday at The Oh So (Queer) History of Portland. Tickets (required) are just $10/ general. See you there!