Queer eye for the library: Transforming library spaces, collections and communities

I haven’t been doing the best for a variety of work and life reasons this year, and have been struggling to write – hence the silence on this blog- but I have been watching a lot of Queer Eye as self care. This has made me think of transforming library spaces, collections and communities in similar ways to how the fab five have been transforming peoples’ lives, and I thought this month’s GLAM blog club theme Transform would be a good opportunity to write about it.

I would love to start a ‘Queer eye for the library’ blog, vlog, podcast, zine, consulting group, and/or combination of these things with a fabulous team of at least five library workers discussing ways to transform library spaces, collections and communities to make them more LGBTIQA+ inclusive and affirming, and sharing good examples of work people have been doing in this space to encourage more people to introduce to their libraries.

I have made a start at listing some library ideas and examples I have seen related to the Fab Five roles of Design expert, Fashion expert (Collection development), Grooming expert (Cataloguing), Culture and lifestyle expert, and Food and wine expert (possibly reimagined in this case as Food and Sustainability expert). Get in touch if you would like to participate in a ‘Queer eye for the library’ blog, vlog, podcast, zine, consulting group, or combination of these things, and/or have more examples and ideas to share and discuss. As I anticipate it being a little difficult to find a time for five or more people to meet at once and in an attempt to scale back my grand plans, I am thinking it might take a form somewhat similar to Ellie Armstrong’s museum podcast Behind the Glass Cabinet where I do a one-on-one interview and have at least one interview/episode/post/zine focus on Design, Collection development, Cataloguing, Culture and lifestyle and Food and Wine/Food and Sustainability, but I am very open to other ideas!

Design expert

  • Creating LGBTIQA+ book displays



  • Creating LGBTIQA+ inclusive and affirming signage as well as anti-discrimination signage in the physical library and online (particularly through social media)
  • Encouraging staff to add pronouns to name badges and email signatures
  • Establishing all gender bathrooms. See more in an earlier post on this blog.

Fashion expert

Collection development:

  • Purchasing new LGBTIQA+ resources
  • Creating and sharing bibliographies and resource guides
  • Crowdsourcing reviews and recommendations from LGBTIQA+ communities
  • Weeding inappropriate, offensive and outdated resources



Grooming expert

Improving the quality of metadata describing material:

  • Inviting LGBTIQA+ communities to describe material in their own words through folksonomies/tagging (and metadata parties!). Read more about this in this earlier post on this blog. 
  • Changing outdated and offensive subject headings and Dewey numbers if possible and lobbying for change to these systems- inspired by the Cataloguing Lab. 
  • Connecting to related collection items and GLAMorous collections and facilitating access to materials and their context through cross-references, keywords and networks  – inspired by Mike Jones’ work.  See recent keynote by Mike Jones below:



Culture and lifestyle expert

This role could be played by a community engagement or community programming or events librarian with a background in social work or other community engagement experience or it could be played by a social worker who works in or closely with libraries, as I am keen to encourage more libraries to either employ social workers or at least form partnerships with them.

This would involve working closely with LGBTIQA+ communities, helping the library become a safer space and an affirming space for LGBTIQA+ communities (including organising training library staff and working very closely with the design expert) and hosting events for and by LGBTIQA+ communities. Events could be connected to collections (e.g. queer book clubs, feminist reading circles, rainbow storytime, bibliotherapy, zine making workshops, author talks – many libraries have recently hosted or are about to host Nevo Zisin), cataloguing/metadata (metadata parties!), LGBTIQ+ history (e.g audio tour/podcast workshop at Moreland Libraries, exhibitions , digital storytelling workshops), and more!



Food and wine expert (perhaps reimagined as food and sustainability)

As so many LGBTIQA+ folks I know dream of running away and starting a queer commune, and also to help abate global warming doom, I feel like a food and sustainability expert would be a very useful addition to any library. This person would work very closely with collections and culture and lifestyle in particular to develop collections and host events related to permaculture, gardening, sustainability, ethical food consumption and other related topics. This could include setting up a community garden, seed library and/or a tool library.


Seed library and related collection at Castlemaine Library

In a more similar role to Queer eye’s food and wine expert, this expert may also be involved in hosting LGBTIQA+ or at least LGBTIQA+ friendly events involving food, including:

Beer and books (or Bubbles and books) as seen at my local Rainbow Valley Libraries

beer and books

Reading between the wines

Literary themed cocktails

ITea and biscuits (could be perfect to include at a metadata party!)

I actually think every community event could involve food in some way as this is a really powerful ingredient in successful community engagement initiatives I’ve been part of – particularly for getting them started and bringing people in and together in comfort and safety. I have written a little about this before on twitter and in some lessons learned from Midsumma 2017 and it is at least partly why the banner for my blog includes a rainbow tea shelfie in my office.


I guess this entire blog and my life is a little bit like Queer eye for the library, particularly my Ideas for a GLAMorous homotopia and Queer eye for the librarian ally posts in addition to others I have shared throughout this post… However, I am keen to turn this into a collective endeavor!










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Challenging Dewey in dreams and reality

Inspired by a recent dream I had where my workplace decided to abandon the Dewey Decimal Classification System (and sadly woke up before I figured out what alternative we’d gone with), I thought I’d put together some reading and podcast recommendations to celebrate those who have challenged and expanded this system and made it better It also happens to be Dewey Decimal Day today! They’re the perfect readings and resources to bring out at your library’s Christmas party, right…?!

I thought I’d start with some reminders that Dewey himself was probably not the greatest person, which may not be surprising given the system’s legacy of sexism, racism,  imperialism, heterosexism and more discrimination:


Challenging DDC – an introduction by Sarah Hume, Hack Library School

Cataloging Black Knowledge: How Dorothy Porter Assembled and Organized a Premier Africana Research Collection by Zita Cristina Nunes, American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History

A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification by Doreen Sullivan, Overland

Naming the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: A Look at How Gays and Lesbians are Classified in the Dewey Decimal Classification by Michelle Drumm

Asexuality in the library: Dewey Decimal Classification edition by Chrysocolla Town, The Asexual Agenda

These recent updates for LGBT community and transgender people in DDC are promising.

Galiwin’ku library closes book on the Dewey Decimal System to prioritise Yolngu culture By Jesse Thompson and Liz Trevaskis, ABC news 

Drabinski, E. (2008). Teaching the radical catalogRadical cataloging: Essays at the front, 198-205.

Adler, M. (2017). Classification along the Color Line: Excavating Racism in the Stacks. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies, 1(1).

Adler, M., & Harper, L. M. (2018). Race and Ethnicity in Classification Systems: Teaching Knowledge Organization from a Social Justice Perspective. Library Trends, 67(1), 52-73.


Turbitt & Duck Podcast 

Library Bytegeist Blog/Podcast

Stuff Mom Never Told You Podcast

I also love the work Anne has done facilitating access to Transgender-related materials and Intersex-related materials  using Trove tags – given such material is often harder to find due to issues with classification (including but not limited to Dewey), these lists are really important and excellent! 

Challenging Dewey: Classification and Equality

I’ve mentioned the Challenging Dewey: Classification and Equality exhibition at Melbourne Library Service quite a few times before, but had to include it in this post.  I was a newly-graduated librarian when was on in 2016 and it has had a lasting and sustaining impact on my career. In addition to featuring work by artists responding to Doreen Sullivan’s brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification, in the centre of the exhibition space, it showcased material from ALGA to celebrate some of the subversive agents of social change working in libraries who have helped challenge discriminatory classification and champion equality through subversive cataloguing, collection development and promotion (particularly through the creation and dissemination of bibliographies). I particularly remember reading about the gay librarians and libraryworkers groups of the 1970s who would have been limited in what they could do given that being out at work would have put their jobs at risk, but they recognised the importance of facilitating free and open access to LGBTIQ information and stories and challenging discrimination, and united to do so through subversive cataloguing, collection development and promotion. 

My workplace probably isn’t quite ready to abandon Dewey,  so my dream probably won’t come true in the near future. However, I have been thinking a lot lately about bringing critiques of library classification systems into the information literacy classroom more than I have previously and look forward to exploring this and sharing some strategies in the new year. 


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A GLAMorous guide to Midsumma in Melbourne 2019: Queerying the catalogue, curating the revolution

I thought I’d take some time to round up GLAMorous Midsumma events and recruit for the GLAM Pride Victoria contingent at Pride March in early 2019. My recommendations for bookish, emerging creative tech, and history fun! It has made me pretty excited about queer GLAMorous Melbourne – not just in the inner north and south but in Frankston, Fundoora, Footscray, St Albans, and, of course, Rainbow Valley!  I still dream of the day when GLAMorous institutions host LGBTIQA+ events, showcase LGBTIQA+ materials, and have all gender toilets all year round instead of just during Midsumma time. However, as I like to say Midsumma is an excellent gaytway and we don’t actually have to wait til then thanks to Museums Victoria – Check out Melbourne Museum’s special edition of Nocturnal this Friday night celebrating gender, identity, & queer culture and the Love exhibition at the Immigration Museum (I’ve heard very good things about it).

If you’re organising an event or display in your GLAM around Midsumma time, let me know and I’ll update this post.

I’ve included all or part of the event descriptions as they appear in the program in italicized quotes as I feel its better to keep it in artists, performers, and organisers own words.

Once again queering time and space, I have not arranged this as a chronological timeline or by particular location.

*Updated in January 2019 to include events at Prahran Mechanic’s Institute Library, St Kilda Library, Brunswick Library and ALGA, and Michaela’s Introverts guide to Midsumma 2019.*

Personal Touch

Presented by: Midsumma Festival and Incinerator Gallery in Rainbow Valley

Throughout history, self-portraiture has provided a means for artists to examine their place in society. In the time of the camera phone, self-representation by artists provokes needed discussion on the problematic binaries associated with gender and identity. Personal Touch expresses the sensitivity with which artists are addressing the evolving nature of selfhood, at a time when the political status quo fails to do so.

Featuring Archie Barry (who recently wrote this excellent piece on trans erasure and visibility in history, archives and art) Bailee-Rose Farnham, Nunzio Madden, Bon Mott, Rowan Oliver, Bobuq Sayed and Tyza Stewart, with text by Nevo Zisin.

Dates: 22 Jan – 17 Feb
Fri 25 Jan 6 – 8pm
Tue – Sun 11am – 4pm
Artist Performance and Talk:
Sat 2 Feb 2pm

Incinerator Gallery, Moonee Ponds
Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/pertou19

Drag Story Time at the Incinerator Gallery

Presented by: Incinerator Gallery, Moonee Valley Libraries and Women’s Circus

Join our fabulous drag artist to hear stories, sing songs, eat fairy floss, giggle, and celebrate loving who you are. There are two sessions; 11am is age appropriate for families, and 1pm is a little bit risqué (for adults only). After the program find somewhere comfy in the garden with a rainbow library book to share with your family and friends.

Free but places are limited.
Sat 9 Feb
Families: 11 – 11.45am
Grown-ups: 1 – 2pm
Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/dragst19

Rainbow Family Storytime

Presented by Hobsons Bay City Council

Join drag performers Rex Spandex and Jesse Dean for a very special Storytime celebrating diverse families, celebrating identity, and embracing who you are. We’ll be sharing our favourite rainbow books, singing songs, and having a fabulous time! All families welcome.

Newport Community Hub are throwing open the doors and inviting the whole neighbourhood!

Friday 1st February from 4pm


Find out more: https://midsumma.org.au/program/rainfs19

Writers in Conversation

Presented by: Hobsons Bay Libraries

Bobuq Sayed and Adolfo Aranjuez are friends and colleagues on Archer magazine. As writers and editors they are an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s queer lit scene.

Join them as they discuss their writing, their inspiration and the direction of queer stories for a new generation.

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/writer19

AIDS Memorial Garden Walking Tour

Stories of hope, heartache and horticulture from the site of the old Fairfield Hospital

Presented by: Thorne Harbour Health (VAC)

Thorne Harbour Health and Polytechnic invite you to join them in marking the 30 years of the AIDS Memorial Garden with a special walking tour and morning tea to mark the 30 years since it was opened on the grounds of the former Fairfield Hospital. Enjoy the lush grounds of what is now part of Melbourne Polytechnic College Fairfield and listen to stories from the Fairfield Hospital at the height of the AIDS crisis in Australia.

Located in the grounds of Fairfield Hospital, which at the time was responsible for the care of the majority of HIV/AIDS patients in Victoria, it was officially opened in April 1988. The Garden, originally established by Victorian AIDS Council volunteers, remains to this day a treasured resource and place of quiet reflection.

Melbourne Polytechnic, Melbourne

Sunday 10 February 2019, 12:00pm – 2:00pm

Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/aids19 


Presented by: Trocadero Artspace (Footscray), Curated by Matto Lucas

‘Polari’ brings together a selection of local, interstate and international queer artists whose practices explore methods of communication within a range of various media and visual practices.

Polari – meaning ‘to talk’ – is a form of secret, theatrical slang language used primarily by homosexual men at a time when homosexuality was criminalised, to conceal homosexuality from hostile outsiders.

Incorporating illustration, animation, video, installation, performance, photography and experimental media, the ‘Polari’ group exhibition attempts to playfully explore the ways in which queer contemporary visual artists interpret and divulge their conceptual frameworks and meanings. In what ways are our works seen as “gay art” or are we “queer practitioners” and how do we disclose our messages to patrons via our art practices?

Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/polari19

Queer @ the library

Presented by: Frankston Library

Nevo Zisin is an author and inspirational speaker on personal development and social issues.

They also happen to be transgender and identify as non-binary. Releasing their memoir, Finding Nevo, on gender and sexuality at the age of 21, Nevo is unafraid to delve into difficult and often taboo topics while remaining relatable and engaging.

Free but bookings are essential.

4 Feb 2019, 6pm to 7:30pm

Frankston Library

Film Screening: Love, Simon

Presented by: Preston Library

Join us for a free screening of acclaimed film Love, Simon at the Preston Library.

From the producers of The Fault in Our Stars comes this heartfelt coming-of-age story about the adventure of finding yourself and falling in love. Everyone deserves a great love story, but for seventeen-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) it’s a bit complicated: he is yet to tell his family or friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online.

Light refreshments and free popcorn included!

Preston Library, Melbourne

Thursday 24 January 2019, 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/lovesi19 


A finessed fashion sensibility that considers costuming, codes and the allure of the queer gaze

Presented by: Bundoora Homestead Art Centre, Curated by Angela Bailey (President of ALGA)

This exhibition features artists who have played with, constructed and considered the threads we wear and how style can both define and expose us. This exhibition connects to our queer histories, gender fluidity and acknowledges the defiantly dapper.

Artists: Ray Cook, Lin Tobias, Peter Waples-Crowe, The Butch Project, UB Topia and Anj Hans.

Find out more: https://midsumma.org.au/program/dapper19 

The Famous ALGA History Walk: Explore queer history through the streets of Melbourne!

Presented by: Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

To celebrate over four decades of collecting, preserving and celebrating Australian LGBTQIA+ histories, the Archives is inviting you to come and join us in a special St Kilda edition of ALGA’S famous queer history walk.

Join us as we make our way around St Kilda to explore stories from our very queer past. Parties! Scandals! Nightclubs! Love affairs! Outrageous fashion! Come along for a tour of St Kilda as we get queer history out of the archives and take it to the streets.

Starting at Luna Park

Sunday 27 January 2019, 11:00am – 12:30pm

Find out more and book: http://midsumma.org.au/program/alga19

QueerTech.io: Art at your fingertips (and workshop at ACMI)

Presented by: Midsumma Festival and QueerTech.io

Go to queertech.io on your screen of choice to reveal an online art experience of imaginative, revelatory and playful works that go beyond the binary in digital art. Midsumma Festival and QueerTech.io have gathered together new works from across the globe for you to view in bed, on the tram, in the park or wherever works for you. Experience the online exhibition at queertech.io from 18 Jan.

On Friday 1 February you can literally and virtually get inside the work when the QueerTech.io artist collective present Black Box, an experiment in live digital making at Testing Grounds.

The QueerTech.io artist collective will be artists in residence at Testing Grounds 22 January – 10 February. The residency site will act as a hub, collaboration incubator and experimental exhibition space. As part of Midsumma Festival, QueerTech.io will invite artists and audiences to contribute towards artistic, verbal and online conversations that deconstruct and reconsider notions of queerness in a tech-saturated present.

Also check out the hands-on workshops for queer youth at ACMI.

When: 18 Jan – 30 Jun
Online: from Fri 18 Jan
Testing Grounds Black Box Experiment: Fri 1 Feb 6 – 10pm
Artists In Residence: 22 Jan – 10 Feb
Wed – Sat 11am – 6pm

Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/qtech19

Date Night at Heide

Presented by: Heide

Heide puts the art in heart for a date night in its romantic Heart Garden. Whether you are coupled, or looking to meet the arty queer of your dreams, enjoy a cocktail and cultured conversation.

Tickets include a special performance by The Huxleys and exclusive access to the exhibition House of Ideas, set in Heide I, the original home of John and Sunday Reed and incubator of artistic passions. Focusing on the turbulent decades around World War II, House of Ideas presents many of the best known works from the Heide Collection by artists supported by the Reeds, including Sam Atyeo, Danila Vassilieff, Sidney Nolan, John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

The Heart Garden is a particularly apt setting for Date Night, as it celebrates the intense love affair and creative partnership of Sidney Nolan and Sunday Reed.

Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

Sunday 10 February 2019, 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Find out more and register: http://midsumma.org.au/program/heide19

Nocturnal featuring Nakhane

Presented by: Midsumma Festival and Melbourne Museum

Nocturnal February, featuring South African musician and queer rights advocate, Nakhane, is more than just a party, but a transformation of the museum into an adult playground.

With a line-up of live music and DJs, plus bars, casual dining, and roving entertainment, guests can explore the exhibitions after-hours (with drinks in hand), gaze upon collection treasures and speed-meet Museum experts who will be scattered across the gallery spaces.

Melbourne Museum, Melbourne

Friday 1 February 2019, 7:00pm – 11:00pm

Find out now and register: http://midsumma.org.au/program/noctfn19

Leigh in London

Presented by: Robyn Beeche

This profoundly striking exhibition hones in on the work of Australian photographer, Robyn Beeche, during her time in London. The prolific artist documented seemingly opposing worlds: the post-punk, new romantic fashion and music scenes of 1980s London and Hindu ceremonies held in the Indian pilgrimage town of Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. Throughout this time she was renowned for collaborating with counter-culture personalities including Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Divine and, of course, Sunshine’s art-fashion icon, Leigh Bowery.

The Bowery Theatre
Princess St, St Albans

Find out more: https://midsumma.org.au/program/leigh19

Sunshine Boy: The Life of Leigh Bowery

Presented by: The Bowery Theatre

Dance, text, fashion, art, sex and music. This was Leigh Bowery – the art-fashion icon of the underground clubs of 1980s London hailing from Melbourne’s working class west. You’ll be lured into the depths of his infamous nightclub, Taboo for a pulsating 90 minutes, backed by the unmistakable soundtrack of the generation. This is an in-your-face eyeshot into a life lived wildly… a long way from Sunshine.

Leigh Bowery was born in Sunshine, west of Melbourne in March 1961, but best known as a London based performance artist, club promoter and designer – an eccentric figure in the underground clubs of London and New York, as well as in art and fashion circles. He performed with the Michael Clark Dance Company, set up Taboo nightclub: “the place to be seen and be seen doing it”, and was also a significant model and muse for the English painter, Lucian Freud. He died from an AIDS-related illness on Hogmanay 1994.

Sunshine Boy concept & Performer: Andy Howitt
Sunshine Boy Costume Designer: Bryn Meredith
Music: David Bowie, Sonic Youth, The Cure, The Fall, The Stranglers, Associates and Velvet Underground.

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/sunboy19 

Let’s Eat Cake

Presented by: Maylei Hunt at City Library Gallery (Melbourne Library Service)

“It’s personal. I have always marched and have felt it important to document our journey, our fight for equality. I am thrilled and am proud that this has happened in my (our) life-time…”

The importance for the legalities of the recognition of equal rights for marriage is that the LGBTQIA+ communities see this as a step forward for communities and families for the equal respect, acceptance and acknowledgment of loving relationships between people. A human right to be acknowledged equally.

Australians have for more than fourteen years been taking to the streets to protest for the Equal Rights for Gay Marriage in Australia. Hunt’s photographic series documents the Sydney and Melbourne LGBTQIA+ communities, as well as our straight allies, marching together for the need and acknowledgement of gay marriages as equal to straight marriages.

This exhibition will celebrate our first year of equal marriage rights for all Australians. The opening will also be the book launch of LET’S EAT CAKE and copies will be available on the night. Maylei Hunt is a local social documentary photographer based in Melbourne.

Artist Talk: Sat 2 Feb at 2pm, at the Melbourne City Library exhibition space.

Find out more: http://midsumma.org.au/program/leteat19

Dancing Qweens: Let’s Get Critical at the Bar

Presented by: Dancehouse

Three panel discussions with leaders from the queer performance communities to discuss and dissect queer culture and its intersections with the social, the political and the performative. These conversations, a regular feature in Dancehouse’s public programs, are presented here in a first-time partnership with Midsumma, Victoria’s premier LGBTQI+ festival. Structured in three parts, this series will reflect on the specificities and forces at play in Australian queer culture(s).

Bar Topic – Queer Histories

Considering the globalisation and commodification of queer culture, what are the local specificities? Which forms of queerness resist these forces and which choose to embrace them and why? With a focus on the queer histories of Melbourne and Sydney, this conversation unpacks the entanglement of various art forms and queerness since the ’60s.

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/dqbar19

Once Upon a Drag Storytime

Presented by: PO PO MO CO, Rainbow Families Council and Hare Hole

I have to mention at least one Hares & Hyenas event and have opted for this storytime themed one, but highly recommend checking out more.

It’s Drag! It’s story time! It’s drag story time! This is no ordinary story time – it’s a magnificent theatrical extravaganza with picture books!

Award-winning queer comedy troupe, PO PO MO CO, bring their wacky performance art to the stage at Hares & Hyenas in three shows of family fun for people of all ages but especially the under 8s, with a more adult-oriented show in the evening.

Rainbow Families Victoria, PO PO MO CO and Hares & Hyenas are very proud to be presenting a beautiful new and timely twist on traditional storytime. With two matinee shows and an evening show for the really big kids, this is sure to be a very special show.

PO PO MO CO are Melbourne’s only queer physical comedy troupe with an established brand of rollicking, clever, physical comedy. After making Woodford Folk Festival all warm, fuzzy and fierce with Drag Storytime in 2017, it’s fitting that Midsumma Festival is next!

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/once19

Gender Euphoria

Goodbye gender dysphoria – hello Gender Euphoria.

Presented by: Midsumma Festival and Arts Centre Melbourne

This one might be the most traditionally glamorous event in the list, but with Mama Alto (who grew up in archives with their mum, Dr Sue McKemmish) involved, I’m sure it will also be GLAMorous! A few of my other favourite performers are involved too.

Joined by a cavalcade of transgender legends, cabaret icons Mama Alto and Maude Davey embark upon a new variety adventure – nothing less than the pursuance and promulgation of Gender Euphoria, the state of being deliriously happy with one’s own and everyone else’s gender identities, gender choices and gender expressions.
What happens when we reject the binary? When we reject the expectation of misery?

What happens when gender non-conforming people – trans, genderqueer, non-binary, agender, gender neutral, and anyone who steps outside the rigidly policed expectations of sex and gender roles – fully embrace our diversity, live our own truths, caress our traumas and triumphs alike, and don’t just scrape by to survive, but flourish and thrive? What happens when the system crumbles in the face of our fabulous divinity?

Thursday 24 January 2019, 7:00pm – 8:15pm

Find out more and book: https://midsumma.org.au/program/geneur19

Queer economies

I also think this Queer economies concept is worth exploring more in the GLAM sector, but may need another blog or several to do so: https://midsumma.org.au/participate/queer-economies 

People’s history of Moreland: LGBTQIA+ community workshop for Midsumma 2019

Moreland Libraries

To celebrate Moreland’s rich LGBTQIA+ history we are collecting stories from our LGTBQIA+ community to create an audio walking tour of Moreland.

Sat. 9 February 2019

11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Brunswick Library

233 Sydney Road

Cnr Dawson St – enter via Dawson st

Brunswick, Vic 3056

Free, but registration essential: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/peoples-history-of-moreland-lgbtqia-community-workshop-for-midsumma-2019-registration-53717434292 

Sodomy: A tangental exploration of the dark swamps of Prahran

Presented by: Cam Knuckey, printmaker & illustrator at Prahran Mechanic’s Institute Library

Come along on a journey with Cam Knuckey as he talks about the sordid history of Prahran. From boy floggings, baby farming, brothels, rapes and murders to the trials in the Prahran Court, explore the relationship of the gays of the period in contrast to the high life and Town Hall Balls and Banquets of the rich establishment that sat and judged them.

Thursday 7 February, 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm
PMI Victorian History Library, 39 St. Edmonds Road
Prahran, Victoria 3181
Free, but bookings essential: https://midsumma.org.au/program/SDMY19

Thoughts On Queer Storytelling with Mama Alto

Port Phillip Library Service 

Storytelling and artistic expression are a vibrant, central and vital part of queer culture. In this special presentation for the Port Phillip Library Service, transgender jazz singer, cabaret artiste and community activist Mama Alto will explore the nature of queer storytelling. She will focus on examining the importance of storytelling in building and nurturing identity, community, solidarity and empathy, and consider how we use storytelling to not only envision brighter futures, but to enact them.

As mentioned previously on this blog, Mama Alto is amazing and had a very GLAMorous upbringing in archives – her mum is Dr Sue McKemmish! I recommend you read this article on how Mama Alto evokes queer history through cabaret.

Thursday 31 January 2019 at 6:30pm

St Kilda Library
150 Carlisle Street, St Kilda, Victoria 3182

Queer Pals – ALGA Zine Tour

In conjunction with Sticky Institute’s Festival of the Photocopier and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Q!C is thrilled to co-facilitate another visit to the ALGA Queer Zine Library.

Word is 2018 was a great year for queer zines, so many new titles have already made their way to the archive. The purpose of the zine tour, however, is to engage those queer zinesters (both readers and creators) who aren’t familiar with the archives yet. We want to connect you with its custodian, Nick Henderson, while collecting emerging titles to enrich the collection.

It’s together that we record and engage with our queer history.

This year we’re running two ninety-minute sessions (1-1.30pm and 1.30-3pm) with only ten seats available in each session. Attendance is free, but you’ll need to email queercontent@gmail.com with the subject ‘queer zine tour’ and your preferred time slot to secure a seat. Alternatively, you can always organise your own visit to the archives by contacting their Facebook page directly.

Sunday, February 10th, 3-5pm

Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives @ Thorne Harbour Health offices, St Kilda Rd

Introverts guide to Midsumma 2019

Some more GLAMorous and introvert-friendly events can be found in this guide prepared by Michaela as she answers Hannah Gadbsy’s question: where do the quiet gays go?: https://originaldisorder.wordpress.com/2019/01/03/introverts-guide-to-midsumma-2019/

GLAM Pride Victoria return to Pride March


Although we almost melted in the heat this year, we’ve registered for Melbourne Pride March again 2019! Sign up via this form if you’re keen to join a cohort of LGBTIQA+ & ally GLAMorous and heritage workers, students, volunteers, and history researchers & enthusiasts in queerying the catalogue & curating the revolution. Contact us via Twitter (@clareifications or @maudeygirl) or email (glampridevic@gmail.com) for more details.


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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
RSVP: sismelb2018@gmail.com

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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