Digital Humanities Beyond Itself
In designing an award-winning digital humanities site, the goal of the Lafayette Queer Archives Project has been to develop an innovative form of queer educational activism that uses queer history to dynamically drive intersectional, institutional change. WGSS classes have helped reshape the Lafayette College Archives and enabled students to be active participants in rewriting Lafayette history. LGBTQ+ oral histories have opened up new knowledge about queer communities and experiences at Lafayette. Committed, mutually supportive collaborations among a faculty member, the Lafayette Libraries (specifically Digital Scholarship Services and the College Archives), and a host of talented and dedicated student researchers have produced a dense, closely networked DH site that has helped an invisible history come into view.
But something is only truly visible if someone sees it and only has greater impact if it circulates beyond its own borders. To that end, the QAP looks outward in two ways.
First, connecting the QAP to public space and the larger world of LGBTQ+ history took a step forward in the spring of 2023 via two exhibits at Lafayette’s Skillman Library. For the first time in its history, the College hosted an exhibit pertaining to its queer past. “Queer Pasts, Queer Futures” brought together a series of chronological panels featuring images and items from the DH site. Posters of oral history interviewees were part of the exhibition as well, with each poster featuring a representative quotation from their interview and a QR code that allowed interested visitors to jump to their complete individual interview on the site.
During this same semester, Skillman Library also hosted a traveling exhibit, Out on Campus: A History of LGBTQ+ Activism at Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities, sponsored by the Pennsylvania LGBT History Network. Featuring eleven Pennsylvania colleges and universities including Lafayette (and the Queer Archives Project!), Out on Campus’s three-week visit provided a state-level context for the work of the QAP. This wider perspective is critical since the QAP has intentionally stayed tightly focused on Lafayette. The kinds of outreach to the local queer community (in our case, in the City of Easton or Pennsylvania’s greater Lehigh Valley) that characterize many LGBTQ+ oral history projects have not yet been part of QAP efforts.
Second, in line with the QAP’s foundational value of supporting queer studies and student learning, the DH site team has turned towards creating a new section focused on “Teaching, Learning and Research” that shares pedagogy-related information pertaining to the DH site. In 2024, the QAP team will begin to upload a selection of DH site-centered assignments and student research products that reflects classroom use of the QAP’s oral history interviews and artifacts. This section will also include instructor reflections on using the site as the QAP begins to move “across the curriculum” (e.g., Anthropology/Sociology, English, etc.). As we collect this information on teaching and learning using the QAP, we hope that the DH site will find a role supporting faculty efforts around queer studies at the College.
These latter developments—the intentional ushering of the QAP into both Lafayette’s public spaces and into classrooms—have brought the project full circle. In returning the QAP to its activism-centered ideals and its classroom roots, the project has come a long way towards the kinds of positive, institution-wide impacts that it envisioned when it began almost a decade ago.
The Queer Archives Project Digital Humanities Project is a cooperative venture among Lafayette Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Services and the College Archives and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. The QAP DH Leadership Team is Professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies and English Mary A. Armstrong, Dean of Lafayette Libraries Dr. Charlotte Nunes, and Co-Director of Special Collections and College Archives and College Archivist Elaine Stomber. A full list of the many staff and student researchers who have helped develop and construct the site can be found here. The QAP DH site uses the open-source platform Scalar, a web-based publishing software from the University of Southern California's Alliance for Networking Visual Culture.
We are grateful to the many Lafayette alumni, faculty and staff who have participated in QAP oral history interviews and who have shared their stories and reflections about their time at the College.
QAP oral history interviews and the greater work of the QAP have been supported by many Lafayette alumni and friends. Particular thanks are due to Lafayette alumnus Stephen Parahus ’84, whose true leadership and great generosity have made many aspects of the QAP—particularly the continuous involvement of students—possible.
For more on QAP, see “Queer Pasts, Queer Futures: The Lafayette College Queer Archives Project” by Mary A. Armstrong, Charlotte Nunes, and Jennifer Wellnitz in Transforming the Authority of the Archive: Undergraduate Pedagogy and Critical Digital Archives, ed. Andi Gustavson and Charlotte Nunes, Lever Press 2023. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.12752519
Mary A. Armstrong is Charles A. Dana Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies & English and Chair of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Lafayette College. She is Faculty Director of the Lafayette Queer Archives Project.