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Participants work on archive material as part of the Raphael Samuel History Centre workshops

​Participants work on archive material as part of the Raphael Samuel History Centre workshops

​LMA LGBTQ History and Archives Conference, 2014

The twelfth annual London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Questioning) conference on 6 December 2014 embraced the interesting and complex world of LGBTQ family history and genealogy. The day set out to explore, reconstruct and re-imagine the ways in which ideas of LGBTQ family are defined and understood. This year LMA worked in partnership with the Raphael Samuel History Centre (RSHC). RSHC is a research and educational centre devoted to encouraging the widest possible participation in historical research and debate. Dr Justin Bengry (Birkbeck) and Dr Amy Tooth-Murphy (Roehampton) curated an exciting morning programme of workshops and presentations on behalf of RSHC.  Jan Pimblett describes the presentations and workshops which made up an illuminating and creative day.

The day opened with an exciting and lively keynote presentation from Dr Daniel Monk (Birkbeck) who introduced The Perils and Pleasures of Queer Wills. In his talk Daniel discussed testamentary freedom, the right to determine what happens to your possessions after your death, and how it provides a space for gays and lesbians to record and acknowledge alternative families and kinship networks. The talk looked at the wills of a number of individuals and highlighted how probate records can offer an insight into the creative and subversive ways in which people have used wills to have their significant others recognised in law. Daniel also looked at the hidden perils in will making and inheritance law that confront people whose lives have been lived outside conventional family structures.

The morning continued with practical workshops led by Heike Bauer (Birkbeck), Julia Laite (Birkbeck) and Brent Pilkey (UCL). The workshops had been inspired by Justin Bengry’s own discovery of material relating to a relative, which had been kept in a small tin. As Justin found, "Discovering a box of mementoes, photos and other items that document a queer life can offer as many questions as answers about a friend, loved one, or even a stranger. What did they value? Who did they love? Who loved them? Why were some objects worth preserving and what can they tell us?”

The practical workshops were designed to raise awareness of not only how ‘queer inheritances’, might only partially illuminate a past life, but how they might also help us to reflect on our own present because we apply our own preconceptions, expectations and desires when reading past queer lives.

Sean Curran of the UCL Institute of Education presents the work created in his Queer Houses, Queer Homes workshop

​Sean Curran of the UCL Institute of Education presents the work created in his Queer Houses, Queer Homes workshop

In the afternoon LMA welcomed Dominic Janes (Birkbeck and University of the Arts) who led a workshop on sourcing and selecting visual materials. The workshop focused on material to be included in a new digital archive of images evidencing LGBTQ culture and history. Individuals and groups will offer photographs, ephemera, personal items and other materials to be preserved in digital form through a programme of community-oriented activities. However, limited resources mean that careful choices will have to be made concerning how many images are stored and which are included. Workshop participants discussed the implications of making such choices and how these would impact on the overall shape and outcomes of the project, and our understanding of history.

Sean Curran (Institute of Education) led a creative workshop called Queer Homes, Queer Houses. Participants were invited to think creatively about the traces their identities leave on their homes, be it through their taste, memories or specific objects. The group created a joint piece of artwork that explored the idea of our homes as museums of ourselves.

Creativity was also taking place in another part of the building under the guidance of Rudy Loewe. Rudy is an artist currently doing work with Tower Hamlets Local History Library and archives. The workshop was called Here We are: Visible QTIPOC Histories and set out to consider how the heritage of QTIPOC (Queer Trans* Intersex People of Colour) can be captured and promoted? Rudy used the rukus! Federation Black LGBTQ archive, which is held at LMA, as inspiration. Participants were able to explore facsimiles of archive material and create their own ‘zine as a response.

Meanwhile Caroline Derry (London Metropolitan University) was introducing her research on finding the stories of ‘female husbands’. As Caroline pointed out, there was no specific offence criminalising women who had sex with other women, but that did not mean they were absent from criminal court archives. Looking at ‘female husbands’ of the eighteenth century, this workshop explored how to find such cases, what information is and is not available, and how we might interpret it. The workshop focused upon Ann Marrow, who was convicted of fraud in 1777 for marrying three women and sentenced to stand in the pillory. Using the records of her case, participants considered why prosecutions did occur, contemporary understandings of women living as men, what information about these cases is and is not available, and the complicated questions of lives and identities that they raise. 

The Pride in Plymouth stall

​The Pride in Plymouth stall

As well as the main presentations and workshops a number of people came from all over the UK to run stalls, including representatives from School’s Out/LGBT History Month, Rainbow Jews, Manchester Archives, People’s History Museum, Lothian Health Services Archive, Pride in Our Past (Plymouth) and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). They provided lots of information and very lively discussions.

The day ended with Clare Summerskill introducing the new community oral history project which is being run through LMA, called Speak Out London-Diversity City. Speak Out will be taking place through to July 2016 and will result in a rich collection of oral histories and a digitised collection of images.
You can find out more by following Speak Out on Twitter @SpkoutLDN_LGBT and visiting the Speak Out blog

More general information about LGBTQ history activities at LMA can be found on our relevant Facebook page.

To discover more about the Raphael Samuel History Centre visit their website. 

21 January 2015
Last Modified:
26 September 2018