LGBTIQ+ History Month in Victoria

I returned from my holiday in the UK and Ireland very excited and inspired after meeting one of the co-founders of LGBT history month in the UK, Sue Sanders, and armed with a few tips, I was keen to get something happening again in Australia this year… Upon my return, my October calendar coincidentally started filling up very quickly with LGBTIQ+ history related events, so it seems LGBTIQ+ history month has returned to Australia. One of the big takeaways I got from the UK was the importance of creating a central website/calendar that people and organisations could add their events to, and I am very keen to do that in future…. perhaps we’ll see even more GLAMorous events next year! I’ve always though GLAM organisations, particularly public libraries as they work a lot with children, young people, and older people, would be the perfect places to host events to bring people together for storytelling and history making across generations… perhaps you could host zine making and/or digital storytelling workshops. In the meantime, check out these events:

Queerying the GLAM sector: from library liaison to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and back again

I will be talking at the Australian Society of Archivists Victorian branch seminar about my journey from library liaison to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA) and back again. Mostly focussing on ALGA and the importance of community archives, but I thought I’d tell the story of how I got involved (my gaytway to ALGA) and share some lessons I have learned for queerying the GLAM sector since then. In 2018 ALGA is celebrating 40 years of collecting our Australian LGBTIQ histories. It’s a fabulous achievement for a small, predominantly volunteer run, community archives who continue to animate our shared histories through exhibitions, publications, history walks, conferences, collaborations and, of course, research access.


Wednesday 3 October 2018, 5:00 PM -7:00 PM at Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre

Register and find out more.

Untold histories: LGBTI Seniors – Bendigo

Monday 8 October 2018, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm at Bendigo Library

This short documentary explores the lived experiences of senior members of the LGBTI community living in central Victoria. Personal stories detail the struggle for LGBTI rights and acceptance over the last five decades.

Accompanied by a display from ALGA.

Find out more. 

Putting it out there: Melbourne in the 1970s

At the Royal Historical Society of Victoria- Curated by Zoe Henderson

Exhibition dates: 14 September 2018 – January 2019
Time: 9AM – 5PM, Monday to Friday

Curators talk:

Date: Tuesday 9 October 2018
Time: 12 Noon

Curator, Zoe Henderson, has grounded this exhibition in the domestic arena of 1970s Melbourne. We reflect on and explore the ways in which the life of the city and society were shaped by the hanging ideas and actions of its citizens. The 70s were a turbulent decade driven by increasing social awareness and cultural diversity. Nothing reflects this better than the slide from the confronting political slogan in the early years of the decade – It’s Time – to the slightly defeated plea, Get Australia Working, by 1977.

Whilst some of the concerns which led Melburnians to demonstrate were global – remember Portuguese East Timor? – some were distinctly Melbourne – hello F-19 and the freeways! In between there was a tsunami of old and newly defined political and social causes which reached and touched all Melburnians. This played out against a backdrop of political and social division brought about by the Vietnam War moratoriums, the Dismissal, the economic instability of the Oil Crisis and escalating local unemployment. Ordinary Melburnians took part in community groups, activist associations, consciousness raising, political parties. The young might identify themselves as Sharpie or Surfie, take courage to redefine their sexual identity, or simply enjoy being young and cool, growing their hair, wearing flares, beads and platform shoes. Whatever your take on Melbourne in the 70s, come and re-live the energy of the decade.

Although not exclusively a queer history exhibition ot event, Zoe worked closely with ALGA to showcase queer life in the 70s.

Find out more. 

Past, Present and Future Queer Australia

Tuesday 9 October 2018, 6.15pm-7.15pm at The Wheeler Centre

Presented in partnership with Deakin Gender and Sexuality Studies Research Network.

Does Australia need its own Queer History Month? What is Queer History Month for?

In other parts of the world, including the US and the UK, people celebrate LGBTI+ or Queer History Months to raise the profile of LGBTI+ history and celebrate the people – both ordinary and famous – who forged the futures we are now living.

Australia’s own LGBTI+ History Month launched in Australia in October 2016. Two years later – and a year after the same-sex marriage survey campaign – the importance of remembering the past seems more urgent than ever. How does teaching queer history enhance our understanding of Australian history more broadly? And who, or what, is often missing or marginalised in histories of Australian LGBTI+ people?

In this panel discussion, we’ll discuss some ideas for marking LGBTI+ History Month in Australia. We’ll also discuss the work of Australians – including activists, archivists and academics – who have shaped our queer past and present.

Featuring ALGA committee member Daniel Marshall and ALGA patron Dennis Altman along with Laniyuk Garcon and

Find out more and get tickets.

Serving in Silence? Melbourne book launch

The Melbourne launch of the book ‘Serving in Silence? Australian LGBT Servicemen and Women’, co-authored by Noah Riseman, Shirleene Robinson and Graham Willett.

To be launched by Ro Allen, Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality
Friday 12/10, 6:30pm for 7:00pm start

This book reveals the integral role played by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women in Australia’s military after the Second World War. Their powerful personal stories, recounted with searing honesty, illustrate the changing face of the Australian Defence Force, the pivotal role of military service in the lives of many LGBT Australians, and how they have served their country with distinction.

History Slam at History Week hosted by Mama Alto

Presented in collaboration between Museums Victoria, Professional Historians Association (Victoria and Tasmania) and History Council of Victoria.

Sunday 14 October 2018, 3pm–4.30pm at Melbourne Museum

Mama Alto is a gender transcendent diva, cabaret artiste, jazz singer and community activist. She is a non-binary trans femme person of colour who works with the radical potential of storytelling, strength in softness and power in vulnerability. And she’s bringing all this to our History Slam.

Slammers will present provocations that are complex, uncomfortable and exhilarating, on topics including the queerness of being an unexpected outsider, the earth as an archive, the absence of women in museum collections, plagiarism in the Pacific, and resistance.

Featuring ALGA committee member, Sarah Rood.

Find out more and get tickets.

Sara Ahmed on Queer Use

Tuesday October 23, 6.30-8pm, Public Lecture Theatre Old Arts Building at The University Of Melbourne (sold out but there is a waiting list)

This lecture explores the queerness of use as well as uses of queer. It begins with a reflection on the gap between the intended function of an object and how an object is used as a gap with a queer potential. The lecture does not simply affirm that potential, but offers an account of how institutional worlds are built to enable some uses (and users) more than others. To bring out the queerness of use thus requires a world-dismantling effort. The lecture reflects on how dismantling is framed as damage and considers the relationship between the creativity of queer use, violence and survival.

The Coming Back Out Ball

Thursday 25 October.

Hosted by Tristan Meecham, the event will be presented at the Melbourne Town Hall as a premiere event of the Victorian Seniors Festival in association with the Val’s LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care.

The Coming Back Out Ball was inspired 
by research revealing that some LGBTI elders conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity when they access aged care services – because they believe they are not safe. With so much change over the course
 of their lifetime, some LGBTI elders have lived through a period when being LGBTI could result in imprisonment, enforced medical ‘cures’, loss of employment and rejection by family and friends. For this generation, the first to fight for equality, impending old age may mean going back into the closet, or the risk of being deprived companionship or quality care when they need it most.

But there is hope for the older LGTBI community – the Victorian Government has expunged gay convictions and apologised to older gay men for the treatment they received; aged care service providers are embracing strategies to become more LGBTI inclusive; and Victoria will soon create Australia’s first LGBTI Pride Centre. The Coming Back Out Ball augments research and social services – it’s a public celebration and declaration to LGBTI elders of their worth and value, acknowledging their rich lived experiences….

Funded by the City of Melbourne, Margaret Lawrence Bequest and Victorian State Government. Supported by Australian Gay and Lesbian Archives, Showtech Australia, Sofitel Hotels and Resorts, Victoria Whitelaw Beautiful Flowers. Auspiced by Auspicious Arts Projects.

Find out more and get tickets.


Save the date: Wednesday October 31st, 6pm, at Hares & Hyenas bookstore

More details coming soon. It’s going to be more fun than your average AGM!

Queerstories is also on October 31st but a bit later in the evening and would be perfect way to celebrate the end of LGBTIQ+ history month! if you are feeling super keen, please drop into our AGM first. It’s not great that it is the same night but as you can see it’s going to be a busy month and was hard to find a free night!

Further reading and resources

I should note that Nick Henderson from ALGA worked with Loop Project Space and Bar to put on a fabulous series of weekly panel discussions in October last year which were a welcome and timely retreat during a certain postal survey that must not be named, so LGBTIQ+ history month never really left us!




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Talking about toilets in the GLAM sector and beyond

Talking about toilets in the GLAM sector and beyond may seem strange, so I thought I would write about it for this month’s GLAM blog club theme “Strange”.

We need to talk about toilets in the GLAM sector and beyond because, as Cottrell (2015) notes in the US, “according to a 2013 study by the Williams Institute, 70% of transgender people surveyed say they’ve experienced discrimination in restrooms, including being stared at, ridiculed, told to leave, or not allowed to use the facilities. Some reported experiencing physical violence or having the police called”. I think you could say they are often treated as strange,  like they don’t belong, and despite this their safety and dignity is rarely considered in heated discussions (particularly in the US) about gender neutral toilets that usually seem to focus on ‘protecting’ other people from them instead. This is not okay. Whilst I am lucky in that I don’t think I have personally had any particularly bad experiences in public toilets, looking back, I think I have felt quite anxious about them since I was in primary school (perhaps at least partly because they forced me to identify with a binary gender -although I didn’t have the words to articulate this then) and relieved whenever I came across single stall or other all gender ones…unless they were disabled ones which also made me anxious as I didn’t feel I was allowed to use them.

Speaking of strange, I was up at 7.30am on Sunday earlier this month for my first IFLA LGBTQ SIG  meeting and one of my favourite parts of the meeting was when we started talking about all gender toilets and discovered that a few of us have been collecting photos of all gender toilet signs we have come across in GLAM institutions and beyond. Inspired by these discussions, I started an Instagram account (@allgenderglam) to share these photos (and collect more) to help trans and gender diverse folks know which GLAM institutions are (at least more likely to be) safer spaces to enjoy arts, culture, history and knowledge. I am hoping it will encourage more GLAMorous folks to advocate for all gender toilets to be part of their institutions too. It’s one small thing we can do to be more inclusive, but definitely not the only thing we need to do.

You can check out the account below and send photos and relevant metadata (GLAM name, location, year, event or exhibition if applicable) to me via this blog or on Twitter at @clareifications.

It includes an example of existing infrastructure being fitted with new all gender signage – e.g., “all gender with urinals” or “all gender with cubicles”, and this focus on the facilities rather than gender is probably my favourite and something I’ve been pleased  to see more and more, including at events hosted at MPOW although sadly not in the library yet. It also shows many examples of temporary DIY signs that have been put up for LGBTIQA+ exhibitions, events, and/or pride festivals, which is definitely a very good start and I encourage it, but also it kind of makes it look like the organisation only cares about trans and gender diverse people and wants to welcome them during these times – when really they should care about trans and gender diverse folks always, so I encourage everyone to advocate for more permanent changes to their toilet facilities or at least their toilet signs. I also suggest that all single stall toilets, including but not limited to disabled toilets, should be all gender ones, and adding all gender toilet facilities should be included in any major building refurbishment. I also encourage you to make sure sanitary disposal bins are in all bathrooms as some trans men and non-binary folks get periods too. If you can’t change signage like this or add all gender toilets another way, then perhaps you could create a poster or sign urging people to respect other people and let them use the bathroom without question like this one I came across on Twitter which is pretty good.

The IFLA LGBTQ SIG discussion also led me to this Stalled! online research project and resource that explores the historical and architectural “relationship between environmental design, the human body and social equity” and advocates for  “the need to create safe, sustainable and inclusive public restrooms for everyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion and disability”, which I highly recommend you explore.

More recently I came across ‘Things I Never Learned in Library School: Training Staff to Work with Transgender Teens’ by Karen Jensen which is a great example of critical reflection on librarian practice and offers some great tips and resources. In response to the rather frequently asked question we all get in libraries “where is the bathroom?”, she suggests that library staff should get into the habit of providing directions to all bathrooms rather than assuming they know or guessing someone’s gender and just giving directions to one bathroom accordingly. She also notes that that having an inclusive, non-gendered bathroom (sometimes called family bathrooms in the US in particular) is not just useful for transgender and gender diverse people but also useful for disabled adults and children who may need assistance in the bathroom, and encourages library staff to consider retrofitting bathrooms in their libraries to ensure they are inclusive.

I really liked this article and it was great to see the author critically reflect on her practice and privilege and realise the importance of sharing the lessons she had learned from trans and gender diverse young people:

“I am an older cisgender woman from a conservative Christian background who is just learning and I want to share what I am learning with others like myself. It’s vitally important that we talk with our staff about GLBTQ issues and customer service to make sure that every patron who walks into our library is afforded the same equity, respect and quality customer service.”

The responsibility and labour of advocating for all gender bathrooms and other inclusive initiatives should not fall on trans and gender diverse people alone, but it often seems to do so, so it’s great to see an ally actively listen to trans and gender diverse people, critically reflect on and start changing their practice, and then encourage others to do the same. More of this please.

Some other articles which include case studies of gender neutral/all gender/inclusive bathrooms are:

Pun, R., and Flash, K.S.. Nangle, D., and Hernandez Perez, J., 2017. Libraries and Gender Neutral / Inclusive Bathrooms: Case Studies on Promoting Information, Inclusivity and Access in Open Spaces. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2017 – Wrocław, Poland – Libraries. Solidarity. Society. in Session 113 – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Users.

Marrall, R.M., 2015. Developing Best Practices for Serving Transgender Patrons at Academic Library Service Points. In Creating sustainable community: Conference proceedings, ACRL2015, March 25-28, Portland, Oregon (pp. 184-191). Association of College & Research Libraries Chicago, IL.

Cottrell, M., 2015, Libraries Create Gender-Neutral Bathrooms, American Libraries Magazine.

I believe I have shared NC is a no-go: bathrooms, libraries, and the limits of welcoming by Chris Bourg before, but thought I would share it again as it further illustrates how binary gendered bathrooms can be hostile spaces and how we need to go beyond being passively ‘welcoming’ and do more to promote equity and social justice and be actively inclusive. I really like these questions and suggestions that Chris closes the piece with and encourage everyone to think about them too:

“I hope you will ask yourselves and each other some hard questions. I have a few starter questions to suggest:

What needs to change at my institution to go from passively “welcoming” to actively inclusive?
How does my library enforce a gender binary?
How is our definition of “professionalism” classist, racist, heteronormative, etc.?
How might we better understand ways we fall short, as individuals and organizations?
What are we doing that is queer-affirming in my library?

And I have a few suggestions for queer affirming things you can do in your libraries:

Gender neutral bathrooms
Pronouns, preferred names
Queer-affirming content in ALL displays, libguides, etc. (not just in June)
Ally training
What else …?”

In case anyone is not yet convinced that we need to advocate for all gender bathrooms in GLAM institutions and for doing more to support trans and gender diverse people, then you must watch this ted talk by Ivan Coyote.

“There are a few things that all of us need. We all need air to breathe. We need clean water to drink. We need food to eat. We need shelter and love. You know. Love is great, too. And we all need a safe place to pee… As a trans person who doesn’t fit neatly into the gender binary, if I could change the world tomorrow to make it easier for me to navigate, the very first thing I would do is blink and create single stall, gender-neutral bathrooms in all public places.”

I have realised that I wrote quite a few essays related to toilets during my Arts degree, and now I find myself thinking, talking and writing quite a lot about them once again! It was also quite nice when a former library colleague from a regional campus moved to another part of the university and sent me a photo of a gender neutral toilet he’d found in his new building. I like my reputation. Now to keep advocating for more in the library!

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Queering collections: Lessons from Leprechauns, Liverpool and London

Given this month’s GLAM blog club theme of collect, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some lessons I learned for queering collections from the National Leprechaun Museum, Liverpool and London. There is quite a lot of excellent material online which I have linked to below so you won’t have to go all the way to the UK and Ireland to join in. They all very much demonstrate that Museums Are Not Neutral (in case anyone needs reminding)!

National Leprechaun Museum

Whilst not explicitly queer, the National Leprechaun Museum did include a lot of rainbows and really set the scene for my later adventures in queering Museums in London and Liverpool. It’s a great example of a museum-based around intangible heritage – myths and legends- of a particular place. It was a wonderful mix of storytelling, theatre, digital maps, rainbows and play. It was such a joy to enter the world they created with this museum. I accidentally came across it on my way to the Chester Beatty Library and I’m not 100% convinced that it really exists outside of my imagination nor that the free rainbow pencil I got won’t disappear some day in the spirit of leprechaun gold.

Queer and Now at Tate Britain

The main part of Queer and Now at Tate Britain I attended was What Does a Queer Museum Look Like?

A discussion featuring E-J Scott, Curator of the Museum of Transology in an open conversation with queer curators, Dan Vo (Museum Detox), Ju Gosling (Regard), Surat-Shaan Knan (Rainbow Pilgrims), Topher Campbell (rukus!), Damien Arness-Dalton (Queerseum), Joe Galliano (CEO, Queer Britain), Rachael Lennon (Programme Curator, Prejudice and Pride, National Trust), Sean Curran (Community Learning Manager, Sutton House, National Trust) and Zorian Clayton (Curator of Prints and chair of the LGBTQ working group at the V&A).

E-J Scott asked all participants, including panelists, to sit on the floor as a brilliant way to “break down the hierarchy of expertise within the museum that separates the experts from people with lived experience”, to create a “peaceful protest through occupation” and also to indicate that “creating change is uncomfortable”. I loved how they brought together people who had been queering museums and/or history in different ways – queering history from the grassroots and agitating for change within institutions and beyond them, queering history with institutional support and leadership, setting up queer archives, exhibitions and LGBT History Month, and even creating a physical Queer Museum. They made an impressive effort to include LGBTIQ+ People of Colour and disabled people on the panel. I had attended a panel discussion on queer history in Melbourne hosted by the National Trust of Victoria just before I left which was more of a manel with white gay men and it was still fresh in my mind. It was a big step for the National Trust of Victoria to be hosting a panel about queer heritage, and the chair from the National Trust and panelist Nick Henderson did acknowledge that it wasn’t a representative panel and made an effort to talk about more diverse histories, but we still have a very long way to go, and the National Trust in the UK appear to be further ahead. Although we did hear about some challenges they had experienced in their attempts to queer history there in the recent past, so there’s definitely hope for us in Victoria. The discussion mentioned that when an institution relies on the public record as ‘proof’ of queer history, this really limits what kinds of queer histories are told and which ones are further marginalised, so we need to be more imaginative and creative to collect and tell diverse queer histories.

This made me think of the National Leprechaun Museum’s approach to talking about histories – there are not really any objective facts about nor ‘proof’ of leprechauns, but lots of stories, myths and legends to share and ways that the stories, myths, and legends has entered the real world to highlight too – for example: a motorway entered up being built around a faerie tree in County Clare following a public campaign.

Someone at the discussion also mentioned the importance of making an institution’s values really explicit to help you reach out to communities and show them that you care about LGBTIQ+ inclusion. The importance of building trust by ensuring that the institution won’t censor or alter LGBTIQ+ histories also came up.

I took a quite a lot of notes, but wrote them in rainbow pencil, which has made them particularly hard to decipher! Luckily, the discussion was recorded so you can watch it below:

V&A Museum LGBT tour

I had heard quite a lot about the work that the V&A Museum has done with LGBT+ communities via Dan Vo on Twitter and from Dan and Zorian Clayton in real life at the Queer and Now discussion. I also always regretted not having made it to the V&A last time I was in London, so I was very keen to go and attend an LGBT tour this time. There is a lot of material in the V&A that is connected to LGBT+ communities and Dan mentioned that there is enough for each volunteer tour guide to tell different queer histories, so you could attend multiple tours and learn different things each time. I love that volunteers are given ownership and are able to put their own spin on the tour. I also loved that Dan’s tour highlighted a number of objects related to Australian LGBT histories (he is from Melbourne ) as well as many related to LGBT+ People of Colour. I think the V&A’s work in this space seemed to be a good example of both queering collections from below or from the grassroots with volunteers like Dan and queering collections at the institutional level or with institutional support via their LGBT+ working group. Particularly in light of the discussion at the Tate (in the above video), I really think there is a need for both approaches, and it is nice to see them in action in the one place.


Nicely illustrating how excellent Dan is and how many queer objects there are in the V&A, Dan recently finished showcasing one object for every day of the year – check out the #QueerVAM moment

Pride and Prejudice: Bringing stories out of the closet

The  Pride and Prejudice research project led to an online collection of LGBT+ objects from across different National Museums Liverpool art and social history collections, an LGBT+ trail of items on display, resources and toolkits, and a number of physical exhibitions across the museums and galleries – a few of which I was lucky to see. I had heard about National Museums Liverpool in the MuseoPunks interview with David Fleming, their former director, on ‘Institutional bravery’, or “about the social impact of museum work, advocacy as a strategic objective, and what it means for a museum service to be openly political”, so I expected great things. In fact, it is one of the reasons I decided to go to Liverpool. They very much lived up to my expectations.

Liverpool Museums LGBT+ Trail

This LGBT+ trail was created as part of the Liverpool Museums Pride and Prejudice research project to highlight LGBT+ collection items on display at the Museum of Liverpool, the Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery, and Sudley House. I only managed to make it to the Walker Art Gallery and Museum of Liverpool which had the most items on the display and they were both excellent.

Zines, colouring in, picture books, fashion and community at Walker Art Gallery

This was the first place I went in Liverpool and not only did it have a small exhibition on Fashion Icons: Celebrating gay designers , it also had an excellent queer exhibition and chill out space with colouring in, LGBT+ zines from their collection, and picture books on display.

The LGBT+ trail items were clearly labelled with the Pride and Prejudice research project logo and an often quite detailed description of their connection to LGBT+ communities, which was really helpful. Often I’ve noticed LGBT+ content is more hidden in the physical museum space and more evident online.

Although not LGBT+, I was also impressed by the way in which the gallery acknowledged Liverpool’s history of slavery throughout the space, and it is further evidence of institutional bravery and the social justice work that museum workers can do.

Tales from the city at the Museum of Liverpool

The Museum of Liverpool was one of the most inclusive and accessible museums I have entered and their LGBT+ ‘Tales from the City’ exhibition made it even more inclusive and accessible. There was an accessible single stall toilet near the exhibition with a sign saying ‘This toilet can be used by everyone” (one of my favourite toilet signs!). Many of the labels I noticed had brail, many videos had British Sign Language, and a lot of audio-visual content (particularly for the LGBT+ exhibition) also had transcripts in fairly large print. The Tales of the City exhibition was quite small but it was more representative across LGBT+ communities than other larger exhibitions I have seen. In particular, I feel like it had more trans representation than I’ve seen. They also used memory maps which I loved and hadn’t really come across before. It seemed like a great way to capture and display peoples’ relationships to a particular place and a way for communities to engage with content creation for an exhibition and/or contribute to the collection. I helped capture and showcase intangible queer heritage which complemented the more tangible objects on display.

Hello Sailor! at the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Above the Merseyside Maritime Museum, you will find the International Museum of Slavery, below it you will find the Seized: The Border and Customs uncovered gallery, and in between their was an exhibition about Liverpool’s connection to the Titanic, so it was very moving and quite grim… But then I came across the Hello Sailor! Gay life on the ocean wave exhibition tucked away in a corner like a little queer oasis. It was actually about how life at sea was something like an oasis for gay sailors in “a sea of hostility”. They could learn and play in foreign ports (and access literature that wasn’t available in England) and were more free to be themselves at sea, but experienced homophobia upon their return home. They also used memory maps and one of them had a connection to Sydney, Australia.

Shelf help and prescription books at Liverpool Central Library

This wasn’t explicitly queer, but I really loved the Liverpool Central library. I particularly liked that they had a ‘Shelf Help’/prescription books display near the entrance connected to other bibliotherapy initiatives. There is a lot of potential for this to include LGBTIQ+ related recommended reading for people who are struggling with coming out, people who are transitioning, people who are struggling to reconcile their faith and sexuality, parents who want to better understand and help their child, and so on. In fact, I tried to advocate for something similar on campus at MPOW last year, but haven’t had the energy to advocate for it as strongly as I would like to do.

Queer(y)ing the Science Museum

Back in London, I enjoyed a sneak peek of the Queering the Science Museum tour at the Science Museum Lates pride edition. It was unaffiliated with the Science Museum and therefore quite different from my other experiences queering museums. I feel like this tour did a lot more queerying of the museum than others did, which I loved as it resonated with some of my feelings expressed earlier this year. I imagine there is also probably more freedom to queery a museum when you’re doing a tour that is unaffiliated with said museum. It turned out there was quite a lot to queery and critique (biases, gender binaries, representations, silences, biological determinism and more) and tour guide Ellie did it well. It was a little like a GLAMorous LGBTIQ+ inclusive practice workshop that I’ve done but even more fun! I had queeried the Pioneer plaque in this workshop and knew about Alan Turing, but quite a lot was new to me and it was the perfect gaytway to the Science Museum. I liked that they very consciously did not want to make it just about celebrating scientists who were gay or trans or rumoured to be gay or trans, and also tried to find diverse stories to tell and queeries to ask. I recommend checking out the podcast Ellie co-hosts with Claire Mead – Transit Spectra : “a digital repository exploring the interaction of science and art in uncovering new visions around gender, sexuality, ecologies and affect”.


Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories at the British Museum

I queeried the British Museum with the aide of this podcast/audio guide which was very well produced and had excellent and relatively diverse stories about objects that can be found at the British Museum which are connected to LGBTQ histories. I like the idea of being able to listen to podcast about LGBTQ histories without anyone having any idea what you were listening to as it could be particularly great for people who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity and/or anyone who is not yet out. It also seemed like a good option for introverts! However, I did find some of the items a little difficult to find and sometimes got lost given that the museum is so large, so perhaps some sort of digital or physical map to complement the podcast would have helped… (Maybe there was one and I missed it!) Or maybe they could have more prominent labels like the Walker Art Gallery. I also found it quite isolating compared to the tours which had a nice collective buzz and sense of pride. In addition to the podcast, they have an online exhibition on Google Arts & Culture which is great. Their online LGBTQ presence and visibility is strong, but it definitely could be stronger in the physical space. On that note, it is very promising that the British Museum’s physical Desire, Love and Identity exhibition from 2017 will be touring museums around the UK later this year and beyond it.


Fish out of water at the Royal Maritime Museum

I was actually sadly back in Melbourne by the time this Fish Out of Water event rolled around but Sacha Coward, the mermaid hunter/museum worker behind it, recently co-wrote an article about it and his work queering the Royal Maritime Museum and discovering queer histories of mermaids, and it sounds like he took the National Leprechaun Museum spirit to queering the museum.

You can also hear from him in this video:

Are leprechauns my mermaids?

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Harry Potter and the Order of Librarianship

I have written previously about how the Harry Potter series was my gateway to discovering the power of reading and the internet, as well as social justice campaigning, which I suspect all eventually played a role in leading me to librarianship. This month’s GLAM blog club theme ‘Collect’  made me realise that the series also led to one of my earliest experiences of collecting, which is further evidence to support that it was my gateway to librarianship, so I thought I would write a little bit about it.


My collection largely consisted of items that would help me recreate the Harry Potter world, imagine that I was part of it, and make up my own stories to build on the canon – particularly Lego, magical creature soft toys (e.g. Hedwig), Chocolate Frog cards, the books Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (I loved that they all included annotations/marginalia written by some of the characters – making them seem more ‘real’), and Hogwarts-themed clothes and stationery. I didn’t really want to be Harry or any of the other characters so I didn’t buy Harry Potter glasses or things like that, but I did want to want to be part of their world. I also collected newspaper articles about the Harry Potter books and films as evidence of this world entering the muggle world. The collection, like my copies of the books themselves, was not catalogued in any way, nor particularly well preserved, which now makes me shudder a little, but it was very well loved and heavily used.

There were never any Hufflepuff themed items to collect when I was growing up and I wonder if this was partly why I resisted being a Hufflepuff for so long… As many will know, I now very much embrace my Hufflepuff side and I was so excited to see so many Hufflepuff items available from the shop at the Harry Potter studios in London!

A sample of my Harry Potter collection

A sample of items in my Harry Potter collection

One of my favourite parts of the Harry Potter studio, was a very librarian thing to love – the display cabinet dedicated to graphic design and printed media in the film  – all the newspapers, magazines, books, posters, letters, and packaging that was featured in them!

I also loved going to the House of MinaLima in London- three floors dedicated to graphic design exhibitions from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by graphic design duo Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.

I recently discovered a book chapter on “Queering Harry Potter” which offers some insights into why I loved the series so much and wanted to be part of this world growing up – more than just due to the fact that Harry Potter looks quite a lot like a lesbian stereotype which the chapter opens with! Harry Potter grows up in a wizardphobic world and is literally forced to live in a closet until he is 11 and receives his letter to Hogwarts – where he finds magic, friendship and a sense of belonging, and begins a quest to fight for justice. He discovers a whole world of people just like him. So much like coming out. It’s also a little bit like how I felt when I started library school and found my people: creative, quirky, nerdy and caring advocates for social justice. While I now know the series was problematic in quite a number of ways (I may do another post on that), it has been a powerful story for many people who felt different from mainstream culture growing up and it was a great, safe place for me to escape to and find comfort in.

Ehnenn J.R. (2011) Queering Harry Potter. In: Peele T. (eds) Queer Popular Culture. Palgrave Macmillan, New York


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Happy birthday NewCardigan: Helping GLAM professionals be more awesome since 2016

I’ve come quite a long way from shy, idealistic student looking for work in libraries who often only attended cardi parties for the talk to newish and slightly more cynical academic librarian who is often one of the last to leave drinks. While I have become less shy, I apparently wasn’t quite confident enough to say all I wanted to say about NewCardigan in front of a crowd, so I thought I’d write it instead.

NewCardigan (via Cardi Parties, the CardiCardi and GLAM blog club) has been a source of hope and solidarity for the past three years. As a student, they gave me hope to discover there were people out there in my future profession doing many of the things I’d been learning and thinking about. As a new professional, they have given me confidence and new resources and connections to start trying to put ideas into action in my workplace and a support group when bureaucracies and knowledge silos started getting to me. It also became a kind of support group or refuge during challenging times, particularly a certain non-binding, voluntary postal survey period. When many other GLAMorous professional organisations made some fairly terrible public responses to this survey, and quite a few GLAM institutions were largely silent as they tried to be ‘neutral’, NewCardigan’s response was excellent and very much needed. In fact, there have been a few times when I’ve described the inclusive environment of cardi parties and accidentally led people to believe it was a queer GLAM group. It isn’t one but it is an inclusive and safer space with a code of conduct and it has given me the confidence to help start GLAM pride group in Victoria and work on a few GLAMorous queer collaborations. It was great to see that quite a lot of GLAM organisations appeared to have great responses too – I particularly remember the responses from a number of university libraries, Museum Victoria and ACMI – the latter two have both been involved in a number of cardi parties… possibly a sign that the organisations who host and support NewCardigan events tend to be progressive ones.

As a librarian, it has made me more connected to GAM colleagues, issues and ideas as well as Library ones – which has been essential for my role supporting history and archaeology students and academics. It helped me propose and create a popular Australian archival research guide for them and I regularly revise it by adding new things I learn about from NewCardigan and beyond. I started using Victorian Collections in classes and other resources I created in order to help stress the importance of using community archives and looking beyond the public record after learning about it at a Cardi Party. I’ve shared a number of other things I’ve learned about with lecturers and students across a range of disciplines – particularly history, archaeology and screen studies. I also learned a lot from PBS community radio library and archive that was very relevant to my work with another community archive – ALGA! there were a lot of strong parallels.

We’ve discussed GLAM blog club posts and CardiCast episodes at our lunch time journal club at MPOW and actually initiating and facilitating journal club has been partly inspired by Cardi Parties the NewCardigan JFDI ethos and we’ve found we quite often accidentally end up having very similar themes to GLAM blog club.

When I tried to think of my favourite Cardi Party from the past three years, it felt a little bit like choosing a favourite book. Impossible! However, I realised there was a common factor in those that I found most memorable: Museum Victoria. Their odds were quite good as with archivist Nik McGrath being part of the Cardi Core, Museum Victoria hosted or were in some way involved in a lot of Cardi Parties. The first one I remember was about Victorian Collections at the Melbourne Museum after hours. I’ve come across and used Victorian Collections in archivist and librarian adventures  quite a lot since then and it’s been great to see it grow so much over the past few years. I also remember being part of an important discussion on privacy in libraries and archives at Melbourne Museum and on racism in GLAM at the Immigration Museum. Of course, I also loved learning about and seeing some of the rare books in Museum Victoria library too. I also loved curator Bec Carland ‘s fascinating talk on  Blandowski, his penchant for capes, and his role in the history of museum. It kind of reminded of my emerging interest in (okay maybe slight obsession with) finding out as much I can about a few queer librarians of the past… and also in finding out about the history of MPOW’s inaugural university librarian. Two of my favourite CardiCast episodes were related to Museum Victoria too. The interview with Mike Jones made me think even more seriously than before about doing a GLAMorous PhD eventually and the interview with Ana Tiquia (who was working at Museum Victoria at the time of the interview) inspired me to start getting to know the recordkeepers and archivists at MPOW, learn more about their work and collections, and brainstorm areas for more GLAMorous collaboration.

I’ve learned so much from NewCardigan and from connecting with fellow cardies, and I know how much work goes into it, so thank you so much.

Everyone should join now. And get a t-shirt.


Photo by Nik McGrath. T-shirts and bowties are the new cardigans!


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Passion and creativity in librarianship and beyond

It’s been a busy couple of weeks full of passion and creativity, and I’ve been starting to feel more optimistic about librarianship and life, so I thought I’d quickly sneak in another GLAM blog club given the topic this month is passion.

I can’t write about passion and creativity without mentioning my immediate family. My dad is a visual artist and retired social worker and my mum is a very recently retired teacher. They were both extremely passionate about and dedicated to their careers and communities and quite well known for being creative at work and beyond work. I think they have both struggled quite a bit within bureaucracies/systems throughout their careers. They may have retired from their day jobs, but I don’t think they will ever stop helping people and teaching… and in fact, I think they’re starting to find a renewed passion for this outside of the system. I’ve loved seeing the new lease on life my mum has found this year after a combination of selling the family home to move into a smaller apartment and retiring from her job. Her creative pursuits tend to involve food and/or music.

My older brother is a musician and super intelligence, but was extremely disengaged in the formal education system and has struggled a lot in his life. He’s quite recently found a new passion in carpentery – which is a way he can be quite creative and also earn money to support other creative endeavours. My younger brother is also a passionate musician by night and a very passionate gardener by day. He has found himself singing his way around Georgia (in Europe –  not the US) and Italy in recent times. I may have struggled with reading until I discovered the Harry Potter books at about 11 and I still have to work really hard at reading and learning, but I think my passion for stories, knowledge and learning has always been quite strong. Perhaps not surprisingly giventhis passion, I think my creative outlet is writing (including but not limited to puns)… like our parents, we are all passionate about helping people and speaking up against discrimination and hate and do so in different, generally creative ways… and, again like our parents, also all quite well known for wearing bright colours or otherwise creative outfits, so I guess compassion and fashion is also an outlet for our creativity.

I’ve been starting to feel a little stifled by bureaucracies in recent times and it has made me realise that most of my creative energy had been going into a bit of a void at work and discover the need to find a new outlet for it…or to revisit my old passion for writing! I think my waning passion and creativity may have partly been because I haven’t really had a proper holiday since before I started studying in mid-2013 and I’d been starting to burn out (I’ve had time off… but I’ve tended to sneak in self-funded conferences to at least part of that time). I reached a point in my pre-library life job where I started writing monologues for the photocopier where which is how I knew I needed a holiday, a break from bureaucracy, and probably also a new direction in my career/life… I will soon be heading off on a holiday to Ireland with my creative and passionate O’Hanlon kin…. and I’ve found my creative energy and passion have started to come back beyond work and at work… before I started writing monologues for photocopiers again! I’ve also been feeling inspired by my creative colleagues in the library (we have a lot of musicians) and by English, creative arts and other humanities lecturers and students (and their reading lists).

In the past few weeks I have: been interviewed by a journalism student who remembered my passion and ideas for copyright reform from a class and was looking for a way to tell a story that would get more people interested in copyright law; been described as bringing a new level of chic to the library; invited to be in a video about librarian fashion (sadly the timing may not work out, but watch this space); brought Reid Moore out again to take National Similutaneous Storytime to a queer time and place (We’re also pretty sure it was 11am somewhere inthe world); started brainstorming ideas and sketching for a comic/zine; attended a meeting for arts librarians; and started and been part of quite a lot of interesting conversations about preserving, curating and celebrating queer histories with quite a diverse range of people… I guess all of these creative things are GLAMorous in some way, but they’re not all completely tied to my current role or workplace. I wonder if I will find a creative outlet that is less connected to GLAM or if I will become a writer in retirement.

This Lit Hub discussion on Librarians who moonlight as artists that went around earlier in the month definitely resonated.



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‘Shut Up and Wiki’ about your passions and hone your passion for facilitating access to diverse knowledge

I have been meaning to get into Wikipedia editing for awhile, particularly as I have become increasingly aware of the lack of diversity among Wikipedia editors and campaigns to change this. However, I have always been daunted by the prospect, unsure where to start, and fearful that I didn’t know enough about anything to be able to make a meaningful contribution (hello imposter syndrome). Well, I was pretty confident that I did know a lot about Harry Potter, but it turns Harry Potter fans are very thorough Wikipedia editors so there wasn’t much more I could contribute. When monthly Shut Up and Wiki sessions started up at MPOW, I fought imposter syndrome and seized the opportunity to start building my confidence and contribute in small ways during my lunch break. While I still don’t think I really know enough about anything, I know I am pretty good at finding information (#librarylife) and do have a few niche interests that I know a fair bit about (hello Eurovision and LGBTIQA+ archives and special collections pages!)… and I have discovered that editing Wikipedia is pretty addictive. In fact, it’s a lot like a game and I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Given the GLAM blog club topic of passion this month, I thought I would share some resources and projects that have helped me get started. Editing Wikipedia articles is a great outlet for my passion for advocating for social justice and inclusion by facilitating access to knowledge/research and promoting the power of play in libraries.

Some resources and projects that have helped me get started:

GLAM wiki beginner’s guide

1 Lib 1 Ref – the Citation Hunt is particularly fun (or at least fun for librarians)

Wikimedia LGBT+ Project 

Art + Feminism Wikipedia campaign 

Ling Wiki project 
One of the fellow Wikipedians at MPOW is a linguistics academic involved in the Ling Wiki project and some of their suggestions for getting started look great for GLAM folk and could be adapted a little – particularly archive linking!

A few other Wikipedians at MPOW at have been involved in translating Wikipedia articles from English into other languages and there seems to be quite a bit of work to do there.

Wikipedia editing resources at the University of Melbourne

Wikipedia is pretty open and transparent about its weaknesses and biases and I recommend checking these articles they have prepared to find out more (and work to change them):

A quick summary of tips I have come across from these resources and from the ‘Shut Up and Wiki’ sessions I have been to include:

  • Connect with the ‘Teahouse‘ (log-in required): a safe online community for new editors to ask any questions they may have. No question is stupid.
  • Start small by cleaning up pages (i.e. adding credible sources and citations).
  • Search WikiProject pages to find things that need to be cleaned up and connect with the community of Wikipedians working on the project. Apparently pretty much everything has a project page! There may be a better way to do this, but if you search for something in the Wikipedia search box, you can then refine your search to look only in help and project pages.
  • View the page edit history by checking out the talk section: everything that happens behind the scenes of an article is recorded!

You can read about the ‘Shut Up and Wiki’ origin story in this great Why ‘Shut Up and Wiki’ post by Dr Tseen Khoo. RMIT University have also started Shut Up and Wiki sessions, there’s a Wikipedian community of practice at the University of Melbourne, and Monash University library has recently hosted a few WiKiD Wikipedia editing sessions to encourage Women in Design to contribute.

I encourage you to register for this Wikipedia Editathon for International Museums Day (later this month) hosted by Mike Jones and Sayraphim Lothian at ACMI X.

Speaking of nerdy niche things I know quite a bit about, I think MPOW’s inaugural librarian, Dietrich Borchardt, would have been a Wikipedian and would have encouraged other librarians to contribute too…

There is a great quote from the Australian Parliament Joint Committee on Publications Inquiry into the Purpose, Scope and Distribution of the Parliamentary Papers Series, 1976–77: Official Hansard Transcript of Evidence Canberra sn 1977, p 103:

“Perhaps every librarian is somehow also a bit of an educator, or thinks he ought to be, or he has a social conscience which urges him that he should share his inquisitiveness with the public at large. I have strong feelings about the importance of the demo-cratic process-this has nothing to do with any particular political view, it is just the democratic process itself-and I cannot see how we can overcome the inertia with regard to politics which does abound in so many countries, including Australia, without taking some steps to at least make it possible for people to find out more about what government is about. I understand that this is a philosophical view, but I do think it is an important one which has some bearing on librarianship in general.”

It looks like we shared a penchant for bowties too!


I realise MPOW is pretty obvious in this particular post!

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