Archives & Manuscripts

Crowdsourcing archives

Response to article and database

The British Columbia Gay & Lesbian Archives (BCGLA) recently digitized a collection received in 2018, including about 5,400 photographs, 2,000 posters and 140 audiovisual materials. As part of this digitization project, they put out calls for the public to access the materials and help the BCGLA identify individuals in the photographs. A press campaign accompanied the collection’s publication in order to garner interest and cast a wide net for information related to the materials. By crowdsourcing the research in this way, the BCGLA achieved a couple of ends: 1) extending a research network to provide more and better information about their materials to users, and 2) increasing public awareness of the BCGLA and its holdings, including a sense of public investment in the archives.

Vancouver Pride Parade 1986. Photo courtesy the B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives
Screenshot of the database homepage, captured 14 November 2019.

The BCGLA’s holdings encompass decades of British Columbia’s gay and lesbian history, including “moments from drag performances to city hall protests, telling the story of a long and powerful history of LGBTQ2+ resistance, solidarity and strength.” (from Vancouver Courier article) So in addition to the two results of the public campaign mentioned above, it also serves to raise awareness for LGBT+ history and issues more broadly, which is also another goal of archives. Hopefully all of the publicity surrounding these materials will encourage people to use the archives and develop scholarship surrounding British Columbia’s LGBT+ history. This crowdsourced information-gathering is a model other archives could also embrace for similar purposes.

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