Over a dozen LGBT-themed t-shirts and other clothing items from the UTSA Libraries Special Collections have been digitally preserved for the online exhibit Wearing Gay History that features t-shirts from around the South and Midwest United States.
“Whether to protest, satirize, or show pride, the LGBT community’s often ignored history can be seen vividly in the clothing we often throw out. We invite you to browse through the t-shirts and explore the short exhibits to more thoroughly understand the history of LGBT communities around the country with select t-shirts from the past forty years,” reads the introduction on the Wearing Gay History website.
Besides the UTSA Libraries Special Collections, the other archives participating in the Wearing Gay History exhibit are: the Chris Gonzalez Library and Archives of Indianapolis, Indiana; the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives of Chicago, Illinois; the Rainbow History Project of Washington, D.C; the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection of Minneapolis, Minnesota; the John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the In the Life Archives (Schomburg Center) of Harlem, New York; the New York Public Library of New York; the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of Houston, Texas; the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of San Francisco, California; the GLBT Historical Society of San Francisco, California; and the USM Special Collections of Portland, Maine.
According to a report on UTSA Today, “most of the UTSA textiles come from The Lollie Johnson Papers including one shirt that is so thin and faded that it could have been someone’s favorite possession. Other pieces came from the Texas Lesbian Conference Records and the San Antonio Lesbian Gay Assembly (SALGA).”
“It’s an exciting time for us to participate in this project and collaborate with other archives across the country to provide more recognition for the LGBTQ community,” says Melissa Gohlke, an assistant archivist at UTSA.
“Normally when collections have textiles they sit in a box and people are unaware that you have them,” Gohlke adds. “They represent an interesting facet of history that is often overlooked or unavailable. It’s wonderful that we can now make these LGBTQ textiles accessible and evoke sentimental meaning from the times and places they’re connected to.”