Perverse Collections: Building Europe's Queer and Trans Archives

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Philos Anthrop and Film Studies


'Perverse Collections' (PERCOL) asks: how can a critical and nuanced understanding of the evolution of Europe's LGBTQ+ archives be used by scholars, queer and trans community members, and GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector workers to forge sustainable strategies for protecting LGBTQ+ history, and in what ways might this have transformative potential for cultural heritage politics and policy more broadly? To this end, the project will map the growth of Europe's queer and trans archives, from the 1970s to the present; it will comparatively explore the workings of these collections, including their relations to forms of state support, the understandings of LGBTQ+ history they promote locally, nationally, and internationally, and the alternative models of archiving some embody. PERCOL will identify the implications of queer and trans collections for other subaltern archives, as well as the wider cultural heritage sector, in terms of the challenges they present to dominant historical and political narratives, the complex polyphonic community politics they can reveal, and their creative handling of ephemeral experiences. Working with an array of European cultural heritage institutions, as well as a broad cross-section of invested stakeholders, the project team will draw from the history of Europe's queer and trans archives to model innovative strategies for preserving and sustaining LGBTQ+ cultural heritage. The project is situated in a live political context: as homophobic and transphobic acts of violence and discrimination rise across Europe, fomented in some countries by the prejudicial rhetoric of right-wing political groups, the project will argue for the social, cultural and political value of archiving LGBTQ+ lives and experiences, and for the wider ethical significance of supporting and maintaining a transnational ecology of subaltern collections.


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