What have we done in a year?

We realize it’s been a full year since our last blog post – yikes! It’s not because the Archives has been inactive. In fact, we’ve been neglecting the blog precisely because we’ve had so much going on this year and we’ve been too busy to write about it. Here are a few of the things we’ve been working on

  • Nancy and Phebe seated at a table with an assortment of archival materials laid out.

    Our table at the GLSEN Youth Summit

    October 2015: Workshop at GLSEN Youth Summit. Every year, GLSEN Greater Cincinnati holds an amazing summit to give LGBTQ youth an opportunity to meet each other and learn about their community. In 2014 we hosted a table to let attendees know about the archives. This year, we decided to take it a step further and hosted a workshop for youth about the OLA and local LGBTQ history. Between 15 – 20 teens attended and got a taste of queer history. We even brought a box of duplicate books for them to take home – those certainly didn’t last long!

    Three copies of a newsletter on lavender and purple paper with "Golden Threads" in large type.

    Golden Threads newsletter

  • February 2016: Golden Threads Showing with Senior Action Group. All year long, we’ve been working hard on creating an inventory of the Lesbian Periodicals collection (scroll down for more updates). In the process of going through this collection, we’ve discovered so many fascinating publications, both local and national. One that really caught our eye was Golden Threads, a correspondence newsletter designed specifically to connect lesbians 50 years and older. A little research showed us that there was a documentary about the publication and its creator. The Archives decided this was the perfect opportunity to partner with Cincinnati’s LGBT Senior Action Group, and we hosted a showing of the film in February. About 30 women joined us for this beautiful exploration of aging and community.
  • March 2016: Workshop encore for GLSEN Youth Group. GLSEN asked us to hold an encore of our October workshop for their weekly Youth Group. Phebe and Annabelle joined about 20 young people at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church for another discussion of the Archives, which even generated interest in some youth potentially volunteering with us!
  • July 2016: Visit from UC History Class. In early July, we hosted a summer class from UC exploring local history and different archives in the area. The five students in “Local History Research Methods” got a taste of our collections, what it is like to do research here, and what it takes to maintain an archive. Their local history work will culminate in each of them writing text for an Ohio Historic Marker.
  • Phebe and Anthony stand next to each other leaning against the shelves

    Phebe and Anthony in the archives

    July 2016: Visit from Gay Ohio History Initiative. Anthony Gibbs, from the Gay Ohio History Initiative and the Ohio History Connection paid us a visit to talk about “GOHI” and statewide efforts to preserve Ohio’s LGBTQ history. Anthony brought resources with him and we showed him the archives and discussed ways we might be able to collaborate.

  • August 2016: Completed Lesbian Periodicals Inventory!!!! We have been working for over a year on creating an inventory of the Archives’ Lesbian Periodicals collection. The goal is to document exactly what the Archive has both for our own records and to make the information available to the public and to researchers. In early August, we finally made it to the end of the alphabet and documented all of the various lesbian newspapers, newsletters, and magazines – 3 full filing cabinets’ worth of materials. Now all we have left is to edit the document and we will be able to make it available at the archives and through this website for people interested in researching in our collection. We plan to have it edited and available for browsing online this fall.
  • August 20, 2016: Ohio History Connection LGBTQ Community Day with GOHI. Our last hurrah of the summer was to travel up to Columbus for LGBTQ Community Day at the Ohio History Center. Phebe and I gave a talk on the archives and we saw two other presentations: a talk on LGBTQ history projects by Stonewall Columbus and a living history interpreter speaking as Natalie Barney, “that Wild Girl from Cincinnati.” It was great to be able to share our work and connect with others around the state.

Cataloging DINAH

A couple weeks ago, we finished cataloging Dinah.

Photograph of eight piles of a multi-colored newsletter sitting on a table, each with an index card indicating a date range between 1975 and 1997.

Dinah organized by date and ready to be cataloged.

I like to think of Dinah as one of the crown jewels of the Archives’ collection. The local lesbian newsletter ran from 1975 to 1997, an impressive feat considering nearly every issue had a call for help. Writing, compiling, publishing, printing, and distributing a work like Dinah was incredibly difficult on a shoestring budget with a volunteer staff who never had enough time. Dinah’s pages constantly asked readers for donations to afford paper to print the next issue, or repair the broken mimeograph machine or printer, or even contributions of the time and energy necessary to get copies in the mail.

But somehow, for over twenty years and 100 issues, Dinah survived. Cincinnati women wrote articles, short stories, poetry, and letters. They discussed the meanings of womanhood, lesbianism, race, family, sex, music, and literature. They planned events, meetings, and potlucks. They organized against discrimination and domestic violence, empowering each other on local and global political issues. They won the city league softball championship. They created community, and they recorded it all in the pages of Dinah.

Dinah is a unique and invaluable resource for researchers and community members interested in Cincinnati history, lesbian herstory, community-making, and feminist history. Because of the richness of the stories this newsletter tells, the OLA is committed to preserving it for future generations. The online catalog we are creating — figuring out exactly what we have and writing it all down so you know too — is part of this. Another step is making sure all materials are stored properly to slow down deterioration. For Dinah, that means putting the newsletter into acid-free, lignin-free, high-quality archival folders.

Photograph of metal file cabinet drawer pulled out to reveal 2.5 feet of a multi-colored newsletter placed neatly in manila folders.

Dinah replaced in her drawer in non-archival folders for temporary storage.

If you would like to volunteer your time to help us complete the catalog, or donate money for materials, you can contact us at OLArchives@gmail.com. You can help us make sure Dinah survives for many years to come!

online catalog

Nancy and I have been meeting weekly to input the hundreds of journals, magazines, and newsletters the Ohio Lesbian Archives has. Although detailed work, it is necessary to know our holdings.

We’re using Excel to keep it simple and share-able. For now, Nancy is entering the data and I am reading out Volume, Issue, Date, Publisher. I actually have the fun part for I get to glance at the cover and first pages. From time to time, I’ll exclaim, “Oh, look who was published in this early issue of Conditions.” Or, “Did you realize? X has a Cincinnati connection.” And the librarian in me still becomes excited when we discover a Volume 1, Issue 1.

This might sound boring to some of you (if you’ve even made it as far as this paragraph). But archives need to know what we have. And we want to know. We want to know what we’re spending time and resources on saving. I’d like to offer some issues to lesbian archives in other regions of the country, e.g., if we have a newsletter from Oklahoma, then it would be better placed in that state or a collection that covers the western region. We are using our space well in the church basement but we have boxes yet to unpack. Surprises to find, magazines to catalog.

If you live in the greater Cincinnati area, we are happy to involve you. Even an hour sporadically will help. Thanks,

Phebe for the Archives