LGBT Educational ProjectThe LGBT Educational Archives Project: About The Collection
 

About the Collection

Why I Collect

By Bennett A. Hammer

In the early 1990s when I started developing a personal interest in doing gay and lesbian activism, I quickly got a taste of how activism typically worked: proponents and opponents talking, or screaming at each other without much understanding or education going on.

No KissingOpponents characterized gay and lesbian people as mentally ill, sinners, criminals; gay activists characterized the opposition as bigots. The conversation stopped there.

Activists' materials were raw: the usually home-made literature handed out by both sides demonstrated minimal understanding of what was needed to persuade. Lesbians and gays were usually on the defensive, opponents had dug their heels in the sand. And, the written material reflected the chasm between opposing viewpoints.

My personal goal was for gay and lesbian people to live as equals in America, without fear, discrimination, or violence. I was inspired by the work of Neil lsbin, who had been a human rights and gay and lesbian activist for a long time. I saw the need to bridge the divide between the opposing forces. How to take the sting out of the rhetoric and get people to think more?

For my own edification, I started reading and collecting all articles with the word "gay" in them, from local newspapers-- the Albuquerque Journal, the Albuquerque Tribune, the Santa Fe New Mexican, and from national publications, such as The New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Newsweek and Time.

Rock Hudson on the cover of People MagazineI started saving dozens of individual articles and handing them out to N.M. people in every segment of society: educators, parents, legislators, clergy, artists and writers. People from around the state found out about the collection and that articles were available. I sent the articles by mail, to people having seminars, making laws, creating educational curricula. Very quickly people expressed their appreciation, contacting me to say

that article was useful to me and other teachers in understanding more about how gay kids deal with school.

Or,

the people in our parish now realize that there are other sides to this argument.

It was suddenly clear that news from sources that people read, respected, and relied on--the mainstream press--was having an effect. I experienced a great thrill to know that the archives were making such a difference.

As I collected, the archive grew in volume and variety. I learned of the multiplicity and inter- relatedness of topics in culture and law, such as Newsweek, May 1984parenting, money matters, youth and schools, hate crimes, science and biology, religion. I was particularly drawn to legal and constitutional issues, such as equal protection, privacy, and free expression. I collected on all topics, both pro and con. I was working on this project 2-3 hours a day. I loved it.

I also saved N.M. organizational materials, such as literature on Summit Meetings, Pride celebrations, which I constitute a significant part of the collection and document GLBT people and their work in N.M.

If someone years ago had said to me,

We are going to take the many thousands of articles and - items you have archived, and we will index, catalogue, and digitize them. Then we will make them available to the public free of charge, any time, day or night, on something called the Internet,

I would have said,

The sooner the better, do it tomorrow.

-- April 2015