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Edmonton launches Queer History Project to kick off Pride 2015

Community archives project helps celebrate 35 years of Pride in Edmonton

Edmonton’s We Are Here: Queer History Project captures the community’s presence and highlights its efforts to make the city more welcoming over the last few decades. Watch the project’s trailer video above.

Edmonton Queer History Project

(Edmonton’s We Are Here: Queer History Project is capturing the community’s presence and highlighting its efforts to make the city more welcoming. Watch the project’s video above.)

An archival project highlighting the importance of the queer community to the development of Edmonton will kick off the city’s Pride festival, says Michael Phair, one of the initiators of the project and grand marshal of Edmonton’s 35th annual Pride parade June 6.

The We Are Here: Queer History Project, opening June 5 at the Art Gallery of Alberta, features seven themes: fear, pride, activism, identity, AIDS, community, and nightlife. The mixed-media art and multimedia collection contains artifacts such as news articles, posters, and letters from various legal and political fights for LGBT rights, in addition to artistic representations of early Pride festivals and community members.

“There’s quite a lot to see and hear,” Phair says. “It’s not necessarily people who were heavily involved with the community, but people with a story.”

The project also includes 21 recorded interviews from community leaders, including Phair, who sat on Edmonton’s city council for 15 years and was the first openly gay politician to be elected in Alberta, as well as organizers from the city’s lesbian community, transgender activists, and people who were involved in the Delwin Vriend case, which successfully pushed the Supreme Court of Canada to add protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation into human rights law.

Recording equipment and assistance will also be available at the Edmonton Public Library for members of the community who would like to add their story to the project.

“We’re always trying to uncover more material about the early years in Edmonton. We have some early court records, but we’re looking for stories that people might find in their basements or archives, or other memories,” says Michael Janz, one of the project’s assistants.

According to Phair, two topics of interest that could use more representation in the project are families with same-sex parents and same-sex marriage.

Janz says it’s also been hard to collect material from farther back in time, as many community members have passed away or moved to other parts of Canada. However, “there’s a diaspora of people in BC that have sent in stories,” he notes.

There are many other events scheduled for Edmonton’s Pride celebrations this month, including the city’s first Women and Trans Festival and March on June 7, and the Metro Cinema Pride Film Fest.

On June 6, the City of Edmonton will also paint temporary rainbow crosswalks for the Pride parade.

“The parade is one of the things I revel in,” Phair says. “And the display has numerous photos from very early parades back in 1991, all the way up to last year. Many of those photos I treasure in terms of the people there and the different things that were going on, including the floats and the placards that people had . . . The early photos of dancing and drag queens from the 1970s are fascinating.”