Queerstory Mural 02

Thu, Mar 21, 2024

Rebecca Snyder

Rebecca Snyder - Archives Assistant

The Culmination of Queerstory

Queer history and its road to liberation is often synonymous with places like San Francisco and New York City, but big cities aren’t the only place for radical change to be born. Santa Cruz remains a haven for the LGBTQ community from the mid 20th century to now, and our current community is greatly shaped by those who've come before us. This history is what Queerstory, a grant funded project from the California State Library, is made of; the archival collection of over 1,100 items includes magazines, newspapers, photographs, VHS tapes and more. The MAH is proud to host this collection, and introduce our Queerstory History Trunks which are filled with interactive games and lesson plans for elementary grade levels to high school based on the collection. They are ready to be checked out, free of charge, to the community.


As an undergraduate art history student, I was familiar with textbook pages of world famous oil paintings and was adept at describing artwork at face value, but I hadn’t encountered art and history that felt more alive than I did at the MAH digitizing the Santa Cruz LGBTQ collection. Handling material that detailed significant historical events like the first Santa Cruz Pride in 1975, along with local efforts to battle the overwhelming AIDS crisis, as well as encountering written stories of daily life for queer individuals forty years ago, allowed me to understand a vibrant history I’m proud to work alongside others to preserve. The creators of this collection are who make it so compelling. These are true trailblazers who created first of its kind resources, like Matrix, a woman's newspaper, and its chapbook companion Rubyfruit Readher, along with those who put together A Gay Evening in May, an annual fundraising and LGBTQ social event at the Civic Center. These make up just a fraction of the collection, and there’s so much more to explore using our digital archive portal. Currently over 75% of the collection is uploaded, and come March 2024 the full collection will be available to allow anyone to access this rich and compelling history.

Queer Story 010924 006 web

Having access to this abundance of history is a resource we wanted to contextualize for individuals of any age, which is why we made the MAH Queerstory History Trunks. Made from heavy wood and leather, these custom trunks are free to check out to anyone in the community and can be used in classrooms or wherever you prefer. With the three available, one is geared towards elementary grade levels, another for middle school, and lastly high school. Upon opening, there’s a lesson plan students can follow which will teach them about important local figures like Harvey Milk and milestone events like Pride, along with engaging games which will allow students to understand LGBTQ vocabulary and offer a safe place to ask questions and learn. One feature of the trunk, the traveling journal, offers students to record their thoughts and experiences while learning the material. As written in the journal, a 6th grader from Mount Madonna School said, “I liked bingo a lot. It was fun to learn about pride flags and play bingo” and another peer wrote, “The trunk is cool and it's very fun. I loved the puzzles, they were very enjoyable”.

To expand our reach and accessibility, the Diversity Center will also house a Queerstory Trunk along with all the material for each grade level, alongside a mural highlighting LGBTQ culture and history and is a great place to check out other resources.

As Queerstory comes to a close, it’s evolved into a collaborative effort which has culminated into something for everyone. It’s an integral part of shaping our community’s culture and history, and offers a jumping off point for conversations, learning, and interacting with engaging material. We want our collection to grow and change as the years pass, so if you feel like you have material that would benefit the collection, please don’t hesitate to reach out at archives@santacruzmah.org.