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Preserving our history

Wed 16 Apr 2014 In: Our Communities View at NDHA

Do you have pieces of New Zealand’s lgbti history hiding in your home? Or fresh items which could be history in the future? Rather than letting them gather dust, you could give them to the Lesbian and Gay Archive of New Zealand (LAGANZ) to take care of. Curator Linda Evans tells us how LAGANZ works and how you can help. LAGANZ, Te Pūranga Takatāpui o Aotearoa, were at the front of our minds when we heard the sad news that many Homosexual Law Reform documents Fran Wilde was using to a write a book about the period were lost in a blaze at a Wellington storage shed. While LAGANZ will have a lot of the same documents in its collection, curator Linda Evans says Wilde’s papers would have contained a lot of unique material. “But we’ve made an effort to collect a complete set of all the submissions for and against Homosexual Law Reform, for and against civil unions and we’re hoping we’ll be able to get papers around the same-sex marriage act.” The purpose of LAGANZ is to prioritise New Zealand’s gay, bisexual, lesbian, takatāpui and transgender history, and as Evans puts it “also make sure we cover a broad spectrum of the debates and the disagreements, as well as our treatment in society”. She continues: “It’s really important, because it took people, even like me who came out in the 70s, a long time to find information about other lesbians. And to find information about other political campaigns, and so on, so we’ve got to make sure our lives and the ways we lived and our political groups, and our social and cultural groups, that that information is available for people in the future. “It is a really important part of New Zealand society and culture. It’s really important that everyone knows about us too, not just us knowing our own history.” David Hindley's well-known law reform image The LAGANZ Trust’s collections are housed in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. It takes items which can be looked after in that environment, such as books, magazines and newspapers, posters and fliers, papers from groups and individuals, such as letters, diaries and minutes. Photographs and recordings are another important source. “It’s a really wide range of material. We don’t take that much in the way of three dimensional objects, but we do collect things like buttons and we had a small collection of t-shirts, that kind of thing that is important for our history and our political groups. But we don’t on the whole collect a lot of textiles or a lot of 3D objects,” Evans says. Museums are more likely places for larger lgbt treasures, such as Te Papa’s collection of Carmen’s gowns and the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Evans says LAGANZ works on making sure it’s aware of what is in other collections around the country. If you have items tucked away in your house, or on your computer, which you think would be great for LAGANZ to take care of, you should contact the curators. They’ll ask you for an overview of what you have and seek an assurance you either own it, or have the authority to hand it over. “Then we could go through it together and work out what would be good for LAGANZ to have. If you were offering us, for example, books or magazines, we may already have them. So we wouldn’t normally take many duplicates, although we do keep several copies of any New Zealand item. We’d go through together and work out what we could look after, and what you thought would be appropriate to come in here. We’d also work out whether material would be generally available for people to look at, or whether they’d need permission – for example if you had letters you might want them here for the future, but not want people looking at them right away.” Some of Evans personal favourite items are books and magazines from overseas which were influential in New Zealand, such as the trailblazing Minorities Research newsletter which some lesbians in New Zealand subscribed to in the 60s, and others contributed to. “We’ve got the papers of the Dorian Society which was the first gay club we know of – there were probably plenty of social groups that men had, but they might not have been so consciously formed. This one had a subcommittee which led to the setting up of the Homosexual Law Reform Society in the early 60s, and we’ve got their materials. And the early minutes of the subcommittee which led to the setting up of the law reform society.” Art, posters and lesbian and gay radio programmes from across the country are also in the archives, and buttons which belonged to some of the founding members of the gay liberation movement in New Zealand. “It’s really need when you can have things that are associated with particular people that have been quite influential at the time.” LAGANZ doesn’t just want items from the past either, Evans says. “In addition we want to document the present so records will be available in the future - we are interested in hearing about items such as zines and other contemporary formats for circulating ideas and experiences.” The team is still developing processes for digital preservation, but is very keen to hear if people have digital material they'd like to offer too. Visit the LAGANZ website here for contact details and more information on getting involved   Jacqui Stanford - 16th April 2014    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Wednesday, 16th April 2014 - 11:27am

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