Most Influential 2015: Melissa Gohlke

Melissa Gohlke, LGBTQ archives director at UTSA with a shirt from the Lollie Johnson collection. Johnson was a successful business entrepreneur who owned many bars and nightclubs in San Antonio that catered to the city’s queer community. Photo by Alma E. Hernandez.

As a UTSA Special Collections library assistant, Melissa Gohlke has been building local LGBTQ archives for the past five years. Her master’s thesis was on the history of San Antonio’s queer community, and she “caught the bug” for conserving LGBT records after interning at the Happy Foundation Archives.

Gohlke says working with special collections is “a perfect meshing of interests,” because UTSA considers archiving LGBTQ records a top priority. In addition to building and digitizing the archives, Gohlke presents to organizations to raise awareness about the repository.

“There’s a huge gap in the historical record and oftentimes people who have kept their papers and are LGBT might not recognize that there’s a place they can donate them … They’re really important to the legacy of our local community. That’s the impetus: preserving these really important records that speak to the history of our community.”

Gohkle launched the @QueerDaysInSA Twitter account and contributes to Special Collection’s “Top Shelf” blog to highlight the LGBTQ materials in the collection and “connect with people on a very large spectrum.”

“I love it. I think we’re lucky to have an institution as big as UTSA that cares about collecting these materials. More and more repositories are doing this, but we’ve been among of the first wave.”

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