PRIDE! Of the Community is a collection housed digitally with the UNCG library system that has been working to create a history of the Triad’s LGBTQ+ community for the past five years.
According to TriadHistory, “it is the first large-scale initiative” of its kind. Later this month, the creators of the project, David Gwynn and Stacey Krim, are bringing an exhibit on the Guilford Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Equality to the Greensboro History Museum on April 19.
I met with them last week to understand the story behind the project. This is the second part of our interview. You can find part one here.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
We’re talking about grants a lot and I think, especially for undergraduate students, we don’t really have a solid idea of what the academic funding system is like. What determines the successfulness of the project?
Stacey: Well, on my end it’s incorporation into the curriculum. People are using it for teaching and students are using it for their projects. We get feedback from donors and participants which has been favorable, and that’s not quantitative; it’s definitely qualitative but if the participants feel that you’re doing well I feel that’s a good measure. It means I’ve built trust with someone.
On David’s end, it’s probably page hits?
David: Yeah, which has been hard to track. We’re moving all our digital collections to a new platform now where the statistics will be a lot easier to track. I think another big thing for me is that if we get to the point where we’ve had enough people seeing the collection that it’s causing other people to get in touch with us and want to participate — that feels successful.
Stacey: And we anticipate that down the line we’ll see articles and books published citing our material, but that can be hard to track too. I’ve had researchers contacting us asking for more information. So, usually it’s by word of mouth that we know the collection is being used. Or if people aren’t using it but are reassured to know that it exists and that their history is being honored they will frequently let us know.
David: We, in some ways, haven’t had the publicity push on this collection that we’ve had on some of the other ones. I think it’s because we never hit that point where we said, ‘Okay it’s ready to push out now’ cuz it’s an ongoing thing! So maybe — we probably should — give it a little publicity push at this point. It’s sort of ingrained in our minds that we’ll push it when it’s done, but this is never going to be done.
With all our collections now everything we’re doing is moving toward this ongoing thing. I used to have projects in my [job] title and that’s out now because we’re not doing projects we’re doing an ongoing flow. Projects have a beginning and an end and what we’re doing doesn’t — hopefully.
That was one of the things that made me so interested in interviewing y’all, I heard about the project and I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing, how have I never heard of this?’
Stacey: Yeah we got some publicity through UNCG Magazine and UNCG channels. But, it’s interesting you probably don’t realize it, but we have the nation’s largest archive devoted to American women veterans, and we have the world’s largest cello music collection. Unless you fall in those areas or you’re connected in whatever way we’re doing publicly you don’t know these things.
We kind of need to start continuous pushes because you may have started [attending UNCG] after we got a lot of publicity so it’s incoming generations who, either, are new to the area or are just now interested. It’s hard to keep continuous publicity up, it really is. It’s always amazing to me that people are surprised, but I guess we don’t have commercials to advertise.
David: Theoretically when we get migrated into collections, which again is happening right now, we’re gonna get a little more Google traffic out because we won’t be using such a train wreck of a platform that isn’t search engine friendly. *laughter*
Stacey: You touched on something, you know there are a lot of students on campus who may not be aware of us. We are interested in getting students to participate in the project — because history is always being made. Getting students while they’re experiencing their lives here is really really valuable.
There’s such value in having that experience recorded while the student is living it, and then potentially several years down the line going and interviewing them again when they’ve had more time to think about things.
David: Yeah I mean some of the best oral histories we have are a chunk related to the Greensboro Civil Rights Movement in the sixties that were recorded in the seventies by Dr. William Henry Chafe. The great thing about those is that we have them done in the seventies and then interviews with a lot of the same people in a separate project twenty sometimes thirty years later. So you get this whole long history over time.
That’s kind of what we would like to do with current students, and maybe current faculty, is be able to re-interview them way down the line. And say, well, how did it change? How did it affect you? What do you think about 2020?
A lot of people are gonna have a lot of thoughts about 2020 for sure. *laughter*
David, you mentioned earlier your title is digitization coordinator. How does digital media play a role in this project? More and more of my generation’s socialization is happening online. What are your thoughts on preserving online historical content?
David: Yes your generation is entirely wrong and evil and satanic! *laughter*
We need to print our videos!
David: Preserving electronic communication is a big issue right now that everyone is looking at. We are working on archiving web and social media content through an application by the internet archive called Archive It.
But, how do you get into people’s personal Twitter and Instagram accounts when they’re password protected? You kinda don’t. That’s a really big weakness because we’re gonna lose a lot of this stuff in the coming years. I don’t think anyone has a really successful answer on how to deal with it yet, but ideas are very much welcome.
Stacey: We do have the capacity to deal with it digitally and certainly people can donate digital files. We have a lot of that.
David: Yeah we don’t want people only handing us their printed stuff. We’ve got forms for digital content where you can dump it all to me — if you want! A lot of the stuff in this collection is more digital material too, that and the Black Lives Matter collection that we’re working on as well.
Stacey: We do have someone who allowed us to put their blogs and poetry up. But, once you pass away or you forget your password how do we grab that information?
David: Hint! You have the opportunity to download an archive of all your posts and materials on a regular basis from most social media platforms. DO THAT! *laughter* Thank you!
Stacey: And your emails, there’s also ways to archive emails. There are methods in place, we know how to do it, it’s just getting people to save it.
… Part of that is just, people thinking ‘Maybe I should preserve some things, maybe someone will want them someday.’ And, there are people who think in those terms but not everyone does.
David: It’s basically the same thing as it’s been for the last two hundred years, it’s just, they need to hang onto those things in a different way now than they did back in the early twenties when I was saving all the things from my childhood. *laughter*
Stacey: We know people are taking videos, we know people are taking photos, we just make it easier for them to drop those files to us. That has really transformed our digital collections and made it a lot easier for us. It makes it so the people who are participating are the curators of their own collection. They’re selecting what they give to us to put online.
David: The worst thing we can do is try to tell people about their lives — what would we know?
The third and final part of this interview will be released next Tuesday, April 27.
You can find PRIDE! Of the Community online here. Stacey Krim and David Gwynn are actively looking for more materials and people to give oral histories. If you are interested in speaking with them, they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.