The OSU Queer Archives (OSQA) had a booth at this year’s Corvallis PRIDE Festival! This was our first time at PRIDE as an organization and it was an incredible opportunity to connect to the LGBTQ+ community in the area.
Our booth was all about sparkles, colors, and fun on the cloudy September day. We had a “spinner wheel” game courtesy of the Valley Library and while the fun colors and spinner wheel drew people into the booth they stayed for the conversation and information. We talked to people across age ranges, identities, and experiences. One of the more striking similarities between the dozens of conversations we had was the excitement attendees showed for our organization and mission. Largely, people had never heard of OSQA and when they walked up the booth could not name the acronym! However, once we had a chance to chat and explain who we were every single visitor was excited about our work. Repeatedly we heard comments such as “That is really important work” and “I’m so glad you exist! We need a history of our community!” Particularly older community members were glad to see that an official archive of LGBT life and activism is being created. Such a thing had not existed when they were students and young people themselves and they were glad to see we were undertaking such a project.
Students were also excited to see themselves reflected in the archives. One student expressed surprise and gratitude that the Queer Archives had its own title and staff. Students showed interest in our upcoming Glitter in the Archives event and liked the idea of crafting among fellow LGBT community members in a physical space that placed their history centrally.
One of the best parts of the event was the opportunity to share some of our physical pieces from our collection! Dozens of people flipped through comic collections and picture books about gay characters and by queer authors. “Wow!” one local high school student exclaimed. “They’re showing gay people like regular people! I love it!” Another OSU student stayed to read an entire collection for over half an hour. Particularly younger visitors had no idea that such resources existed, nor that they could be accessed in the OSQA. It was a joy to be able to share our collection with the community.
The attitude and energy of the entire event was overwhelmingly positive. The Corvallis Pride Festival is “dedicated to connecting the LGBTQ+ Community in Linn/Benton counties.” The Oregon State Queer Archives was overjoyed to be a part of that mission and to connect the current LGBTQ+ community to a shared history of life, activism, and literature here in Corvallis, OR.
~ Devon Graham, OSQA Archives Student Worker and OSU Graduate Student in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program