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Archiving Ottawa’s queer history

Interagency cooperation key to project's success

OPS's LBGT liaison committee coordinator Luke Smith, PTS's Andrew Primeau and OSPN's George Hartsgrove met May 10 to lay the foundation for a future archived history of Ottawa's queer community. Credit: Bradley Turcotte
Representatives from Pink Triangle Services (PTS) and the Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN) joined the Ottawa Police Service’s LGBT liaison committee coordinator, Luke Smith, May 10 to discuss the possibility of archiving our city’s queer history.

“We’re trying to get interagency cooperation to figure out how best to archive and preserve our cultural GLBT history here in Ottawa,” Smith explains.

The meeting served as a brainstorming session to hash out a plan for a potential archive of Ottawa’s queer history.

The project will need the support of Carleton University’s GLBTQ Library, the Aids Committee of Ottawa, the OSPN, Xtra, the City of Ottawa and PTS, Smith says.

PTS’s senior library coordinator, Andrew Primeau, says the archives could help bridge a generational divide.

“We believe the archives should be put together to help the community in the future and keep people informed of our past,” Primeau says. “Queer history is very important, but it can also be very vague at best.”

The first step will be to approach the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto and inquire about the possibility of opening a branch in Ottawa, Smith says.

Smith will also approach the Village committee, which recently merged with the Bank Street BIA, to request funding for the project.

“The plan is to talk to the gay and lesbian archives and the Village to create the infrastructure we need to actually proceed with the project,” he says. “With something like this, you can’t just jump into it. There needs to be a framework. I’m hoping the archives and the Village will help to build the infrastructure we need.”

“It will take the entire community to help us do this,” he adds. “The scope of the project is so extensive.”

The meeting included debate around hard copy versus electronic documents and the possibility of interviewing older members of the community to document their oral histories.

As for the content of the archives, all present agreed the project should encompass every aspect of Ottawa’s queer history, from the AIDS epidemic to the founding of the Village.

George Hartsgrove, of OSPN, says the meeting was “productive” and the project is full of possibilities.

“I think it’s very important to preserve our history,” he says. “If we aren’t going to do it, who will?”