Frequently asked questions ...
NWLGHMP's Oral History Project
and the wording of our release form
Who are you interested in?
Anyone who self-identifies as a member of a sexual minority: lesbian, gay man, bisexual, transsexual. (One narrator referred to us as "the sandwich"—as in: I'll have a GBLT on rye, please.) We also interview individuals of any orientation who have been involved in supportive organizations and activities.
What age groups?
It depends. If you have stories or recollections from the pre-Stonewall bar scene, World War II, or the founding of local gay organizations and social groups we definitely want to hear them, but we are not limited to those subjects. If you have been a witness to any part of queer history that will be lost if it's not recorded, we will interview you.
What if my stories happened somewhere else?
The Seattle area has been a magnet, drawing people from all over the world, and that migration is part of our history as well. If you have observations on how local gay and lesbian communities compare with those you've known elsewhere, we'd like to hear them.
What are your priorities?
Documenting gay history in the Northwest as told by a diversity of voices. We would like to hear from more people of color about social and political opportunities, about formal or informal segregation among gay people, and on how racial or ethnic attitudes affected the community. We want to fill in some gaps, such as the Third Name Society, a lesbian group we've heard about but on whom we have no information. We want to know if alternatives to the bars existed in the decades before Stonewall. (Social clubs? Informal networks of friends?) The drag scene in Seattle goes back a long time, with a rich tradition of color and humor, and we want to tap more of that history. Gay life outside of major cities in the region also needs to be documented. For example, what was it like to grow up gay on the Eastside, or in the small towns and rural areas? How did gay and lesbian people find one another?
What is involved?
We talk by phone to determine the topics to cover in an interview. Then one or two of us will visit you with a tape recorder, set it up and test it, and start it rolling. Most interviews last from an hour to an hour-and-a-half. At the end we'll ask you to sign a release form.
What is the release form for?
It gives us the right to publish the interview (or excerpts) in our newsletter, in our public exhibits, or in any journal articles, books, internet, or audio presentations we produce down the road.
Does that mean you'll be displaying my name in public?
Not if you don't want us to. There is space on the form for special restrictions, such as not using your full name, or not using it in certain types of displays or locations, or not using it for a certain number of years.
Of course, if you want credit for your material, we gladly give it. Our standard procedure is to credit the individual unless otherwise restricted. For example, an excerpt illustrating one of the themes in our traveling display would look something like:
Where else does this material go?
Our traveling exhibit has been shown at community events like the Pride Festival, at the Seattle Public Library, the Broadway Market, and at schools and conferences. Copies of our transcribed interviews will eventually be deposited at the University of Washington archives, which will allow public access. (But if you've restricted the use of your name, it will not be used on copies sent there.)
Do you take pictures?
We will ask if you have any snapshots you'd be willing to let us copy and use. We're interested in pictures that show how people dressed, how they celebrated, how interiors of bars and meeting places looked.
I don't have a good memory for dates and specifics. I'm probably not a good candidate.
That's not true. We can always look up the dates. Oral History is about people's perceptions of the times, and how those times affected them. For example, the Hippie counterculture and the Women's Movement affected a lot of us, and in very different ways. We're interested in how you first became aware of those movements, what you thought of them at the time and if your opinion changed later on, and why. How did changes in the political climate, the economy, the war, or institutions affect you and those you knew?
I'm straight, but I had several gay friends who have died. Do you want to hear my stories?
By all means!
Do young gay people these days really care about us older folks?
Our walking tours of gay historical sites in Pioneer Square often sell out. Younger members of the community have shown a keen interest in the stories our tour narrators tell, and often sit around with us afterwards to hear more reminiscences.
Why is this important?
If we don't record and tell our own history, others will interpret it for us—or worse, they'll see to it that it never gets mentioned again. We know in our hearts that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals have always been around, and in every culture, but we have precious little documentation of it, and what exists from long ago is hard to interpret. For example, 19th century accounts of women who passed as men and of men who formed secret cross-dressing societies might be part of lesbian and gay history, or they might be part of transsexual history. But we can't know for sure without first-person accounts telling why these individuals lived the way they did. It's up to us to ensure that future generations know we were here.
And just who is NWLGHMP, anyway?
The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project researches, interprets, and communicates the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people of the Pacific Northwest. NWLGHMP collects oral histories; locates photographs, documents, and other materials pertaining to gay history and works with archives to insure their preservation; and creates public programs such as exhibits, publications, and walking tours to communicate what we have learned. For more information contact us at 1122 East Pike St., PMB #797, Seattle, WA 98122; (206) 903-9517.
This is the wording of our release form:
ORAL HISTORY RELEASE FORM
I, the undersigned narrator, hereby convey and donate to the Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project the interview(s) recorded by the History Project, subject to any special restrictions listed below. I also hereby transfer to the History Project the right to transcribe and/or summarize the interview(s) for inclusion in their collection and/or future public programs. The tape(s), transcript and/or summary may be used for research, publication, exhibition, broadcast, internet presentation, and/or similar purposes. In order to encourage full utilization of my interview(s), I dedicate all of my rights in this information to the public.
Narrator's Name and Address:
I, ________________________ , interviewer(s), hereby relinquish all rights to the tape(s), transcript and/or summary described above.
Transcription of our interviews was supported in part by the King County Landmarks and Heritage Commission.