Vol 34 | No 2 | Spring 16
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Queer[ing] Archives Seminar

ImageBecause the UCI Libraries Special Collections and Archives actively collects material in the area of Orange County LGBTQ history, Dr. Jeanne Scheper, Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies, recently approached the Archivist for Special Collections, Kelly Spring, about creating an instructional session for her winter class: Queer[ing] Archives.

Dr. Scheper's syllabus for the graduate-level class clearly outlined several interdisciplinary access points between the concept of archives, feminist theory, and research methods, and Ms. Spring designed a Queer[ing] Archives seminar for the students around these facets. Bringing in additional subject expertise from Christine Kim, Special Collections and Archives Public Services Assistant; Emilee Matthews, Research Librarian for Visual Arts; and Matthew Roberts, Research Librarian for Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, English, and European Studies; the team arranged a scholarly program that explored questions related to the concept of archives and practices of archiving in general, as well as archives within the context of knowledge production and power.

The Queer[ing] Archives seminar was intended to facilitate the graduate student's existing interdisciplinary research agendas, with a focus on drawing connections to their assigned research. The students were from a mix of disciplines including Graduate Feminist Emphasis, Culture and Theory, Visual Studies, Drama, and Comparative Literature. At the time the seminar met, several students were embarking on their dissertation research and wanted to learn more about how to best use archives as well as how to identify the archival collections most relevant to their work. Others were in the early stages of formulating projects.

Beginning with archives and archiving, the students were given an overview of the historical aspect of the profession; examples of past and current archival projects demonstrating the means by which records, in varying formats, are captured and preserved; local, national, and international resources for research; and illustrations of exploration, connection, and contemplation as a result of using archival material.

Addressing issues in a way that reflected the intellectual stakes of the course, the class next reviewed a research case study. This analytical illustration provided an example of the principle of knowledge production and power. Through application of critical theory to archival research, the author was placed at the intersection of theorizing subjugated knowledges and understanding how to disseminate specialized ideas to a broader audience. A critical discussion within the class revolved around understanding how to explain a subgenre left out by main stream culture, yet preserve the integrity of the research, while simultaneously pushing the content into the public sphere.

Following the research case study, the class delved into further community context and archival examples. For instance, we reviewed local outreach in the form of Special Collection and Archives' involvement in OC Pride, and examined relevant zines and artist books held in the UCI Libraries. Since Dr. Scheper's course was a theory and methods course, textual and visual analysis was important to facilitate the significant research and reading that the students would complete.

It was, by far, a notably fulfilling experience by the librarians and archivists to partner with Dr. Scheper on the Queer[ing] Archives seminar and we welcome future collaborative sessions between the UCI Libraries and UCI Faculty.

For more information, please contact Kelly Spring, Archivist for Special Collections, at kspring@uci.edu or x46573.