Παρασκευή, Σεπτεμβρίου 15, 2006

The Empty Closet Digitization Project

Αυτό είναι το άρθρο σχετικά με την ψηφιοποίηση του περιοδικού Empty Closet.
Θα το βρείτε στην ακόλουθη ιστοσελίδα:

Written by Susan Jordan
Tuesday, 05 September 2006

Michael Robertson, library technician and one of the founders of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, is in the process of preserving the past 35 years of the Empty Closet and making the entire paper available for search and display on the Internet. He is currently seeking funding.

Empty Closet: What is your history with the Gay Alliance?
Michael Robertson: I was one of the founding members; I was the second or third president, I can’t quite remember which. I was a grad student at Geneseo coming to the meetings of the Gay Liberation Front at the University of Rochester in the fall of 1972.U.R. said in 1973 that they wouldn’t fund the group anymore because non-students were attending. So in the summer of ’73, the GAGV was founded. In fact I met with a lawyer, Emmeline Logan-Baldwin, to go through the motions of incorporating the GAGV as a 501 3c non-profit.We passed the hat at the Sunday night meetings – that was the GAGV budget. The first center was on Brown St. We were only there a few months and then we moved to the Genesee Co-op on Monroe Ave. We had some trouble – a state legislator swore he would block our incorporation, but he wasn’t able to…. And of course we had frequent death threats.

EC: What is the project about? What are you trying to accomplish?

MR: All we have of the Empty Closet are the print editions, nothing on microfilm or digital. The U.R. Rare Books and Archives Division has almost a complete run of the paper, starting with the very first issue, January 1971.Connie Gates and I have spent the past two years inventorying every last issue and page number, through January 2004. There are over 9,000 pages!U.R. wasn’t sure they had a complete run. We were looking to see not only which issues were missing, but which were damaged and should be replaced before they were scanned on microfilm or digitized. There were only four missing issues, which was remarkable, and five damaged ones, and we were able to replace them with the help of community members, primarily Whitey LeBlanc, the first president of the Gay Alliance.We stopped at 2004 because Jim Anderson (EC graphic designer) discovered in the fall of 2004 that we can digitize entire publications without scanning. Our original goal was simply to digitize all issues and make them available on the web for search and display. After delving into it, I learned that the best way was to have it microfilmed first – microfilm will last for 500 years. Digital copies, or the material they’re stored on, changes so often that they may not be readable after a few years. Microfilm is a sure bet and there won’t be a problem reading it in 500 years.Much to my surprise, it turned out that we had over 9,000 pages to scan, so I realized the best approach was first to microfilm and from that make digital copies, which we can make available on the Internet. Historically it’s very important to have stored copies of the print edition. Since the EC and Gay Liberation Front were both born at U.R., the university feels they have real importance, and they have tried to collect every issue and move them, unfolded, into acid free boxes in their huge temperature-controlled preservation room. The problem with the ‘70s and ‘80s issues is that they have turned yellow and are crumbling, even in preservation boxes, and they can’t be scanned.We also recorded all the different editors of the paper, and the four different sizes: first the paper was 8 1/2 x 11, then 8 1/2 x 10”, then 8 1/2 x 14, and finally the current size, 11 1/2 x 17.U.R. suggested that we get funding to send their collection for microfilming and digitizing to a national organization that does this kind of work, mostly for newspapers – the OCLT. That once was something like “Online Ohio College Library catalogue” – but now it’s a national non-profit just known as OCLT. We’re applying for this funding right now.

EC: What do you feel are the chief benefits to doing this project?

MR: There are so many reasons to preserve the EC. I think most of us underestimate the importance – local, statewide, even national –of those 9,000 pages. It after all documents our social and political history, our struggle for equal rights, gay community involvement in art and culture, literary productions, news from this area, New York and the national movement.Since it is crumbling, and we do want to keep a record for research purposes as well, it needs to be there to serve as a means of educating the public about what has happened in the gay community. Education counters discrimination and hate crimes, and aids acceptance of the gay community. It’s just so important that it’s there as an educational tool as well as historical record. If we forget our past we’re doomed to repeat it, and we can’t build on it. I’ll bet there have been well over 1,000 people involved in producing the paper over the years, mostly volunteers who have contributed thousands of hours – and then the thousands of people who have read it and had it change their lives.The fact that it will be available online is one more factor to help people today, and it will particularly help gay youth. It will be more accessible online.I’ve been brainstorming about starting a searchable database on the web of what we currently have available in digital form. The CDs from the last few years can be converted into pdf files that give an image of the actual pages, and that you can look through. We have current issues in the database and now we need to microfilm and then digitize the archival editions.It was my idea to do this project; the initiative came from me and not the Gay Alliance. The agency has struggled to keep going, much less to spend thousands on something that’s not a basic priority. So I have never asked the GAGV for money. We’re hopefully optimistic about getting funding – but we haven’t got it yet.The Human Sexuality Archives at Cornell University library is very interested in seeing the EC digitized and would like to have a complete run as well. They understand the importance of this historically. Also the Rochester Public Library purports to have a complete run. Theirs is not in a preservation environment and they are concerned about deterioration of the older issues.
EC: How has the climate changed for the lgbt community in the last 35 years – what strikes you the most?
MR: Some things have changed dramatically and some have sadly remained the same. We have made much more progress politically and in gaining acceptance than I thought we would 30 years ago. Debates about equal marriage rights have been a real mind-blowing thing for me in terms of social revolution.The part that makes me sad is that we are still victims of hate crimes. People still want to kill and hurt us. That’s the part I would change – that there is still violence against us.

EC: Anything to add?
MR: I want to emphasize that the collection at UR Rare Books Department is open to the public. You have to sign in and ask specifically for the issues you want to see. You have to lock up your briefcase and can’t bring in pens – just pencils. They do take some security precautions.We’ve received letters of support for our grant application from the head of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Geneaology Department, as well as from RIT Library Director Chan McKenzie, and also from Cornell. U.R. has asked us to say in our application that they want to deposit both microfilms and copies of digital files in their collection in the Rare Books Archives, and to store one copy of the microfilm in underground storage in a national storage facility – for posterity.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 05 September 2006 )

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