Defying description: searching for queer history in institutional archives
Abstract: There are numerous obstacles to overcome when conducting queer historical research. While has been a steady increase in work to address the (in)visibility of queer histories and perspectives in institutional heritage collections, this work is often skewed towards outputs such as exhibitions or social media posts. As a result, very little work has been done to interrogate and transform the ways that these materials are managed and made accessible (or not). This paper considers how the lack of rich and explicit descriptive metadata shapes the (in)visibility and (in)accessibility of queer records within institutional archives. It reports the findings of a series of qualitative interviews I conducted with individuals who have searched for queer materials in archival collections in Australia. These interviews explored the practical process of searching for queer records in institutional archives; how researchers identify, locate, and access these records; and the challenges of this process—both in terms of a research methodology, and an experience for queer researchers within potentially hostile or unsafe spaces.