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Tue, May 30, 2023

Rebecca Snyder

Rebecca Snyder - Archives Assistant

A Sense of Pride: Honoring the Pioneers, Trailblazers, and All

Before starting my THI fellowship with the MAH working in their archives, I didn’t know I’d be gaining access to one of the most diverse and visually interesting collections I’ve been familiar with. I didn’t really know what archives were anyway! But under the supervision of archives specialist Jessie Durant and behind a whole team of wonderful people at the MAH, I’m proud to be a part of a movement to make a history which deserves it permanent and accessible.

The MAH’s Santa Cruz LGBTQ collection is a donated collection composed of a wide range of material related to the Santa Cruz County Queer community, from items like buttons and photo albums to complete series of magazines and newspapers. They range from the 1960s to the early aughts, and offer a unique look into a community which has been persevering, evolving, and changing the world forever, and has moved into the forefront of visibility and organization. I found myself completely obsessed with everything I was working with, and as I had to physically scan every page in the collection, I got to see the beauty and importance of what was in my hands. As a young queer person in this community, it felt almost transcendent to be preserving the impact of the people who made my life today possible, and I consider my work here at the MAH and with this grant to be the most important and fulfilling work I’ve done.

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Domestic workers strike, Matrix, March 1976, courtesy the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz Trailblazers Collection, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

With the importance of grounding the history of our queer community forefront, the goal was always to make the collection accessible to the public. Working towards our goal with an online searchable website for the collection is a gratifying experience made possible by the hard work of Jessie, and having the records I made available for anyone to see and learn is exciting. On my end of things, reaching that goal took some steps.

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Contents of the collection, photo by Rebecca Snyder, courtesy the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz Trailblazers Collection, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

Before arriving at the MAH, I knew nothing about archives. I could scan, I understood spreadsheets, but the whole idea of Archives felt shrouded in mystery. Jessie taught me everything I needed to know. The database we use, the steps for digitization, what and how to create metadata, and how to handle records in best practice. Most days for hours I scanned every page of each publication, reading current events from fifty years ago, began to draw connections across publications and got familiar with trailblazers in our community. I remember entering our archives storage for the first time and seeing a myriad of different types of material, and it really dawned on me how important the upkeep and organization of this material is on a scale larger than the museum. With Queerstory, its existence matters greatly to me and countless other young people who may identify with the community, and expands beyond that as a vital part of our county’s history.

As of right now, most of what I’ve been working with are publications created in the county for and by the queer community. They include La Gazette, Rubyfruit Reader Manifesto, Santa Cruz In Queery, Lavender Reader and Matrix. They all are valuable and important pieces of history, but I’ll focus on Matrix for a moment. Matrix was founded in March of 1976 initially as a newspaper that offered resources for women by a collective of local women. There were regular columns about herbalism and how it can be helpful for women, forums and submitted poetry, a women’s calendar and directory, all created in classic 70’s typography and design. It feels like a time capsule; it’s evident in the ornate and hand drawn advertisements and column doodles, and even more boldly in the words and article, detailing first-hand accounts of the women’s liberation movement and first organization of resisting a culture violent and hostile to women. Matrix created space. Space that was so badly needed, and each publication included in the collection bravely gave members of our community a place to be heard, seen, and the ability to express themselves when nobody else did.

It’s been a gift and joy to work on this collection and the MAH, I’ve meant such supportive and kind people, all of whom are so dedicated to our community and making sure it thrives. Be sure to keep us on your radar, the online database will be available to the public this October.

Header image: Lavender Reader cover (detail), 1990, courtesy the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz Trailblazers Collection, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

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