MARBL to exhibit LGBT collection materials

Published 08-13-2013

The Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University will debut its first exhibit of materials from its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) collections Monday.

"Building a Movement in the Southeast: LGBT Collections in MARBL" opens August 19 in the MARBL gallery on level 10 of the Robert W. Woodruff Library. Visitors are welcome to view this small exhibit at any time when MARBL is open, and celebratory events will include a campus and community open house on Thursday, Sept. 19 from 5-7 p.m.

The exhibit explores the history, culture, politics, and public health initiatives of LGBT communities in Atlanta and the American South. It features letters, journals, photographs, and concert and theater programs from the personal papers of activists and artists, the records and publications of cultural and community organizations, and rare books and periodicals published by and for the LGBT community.

The exhibit is co-curated by Kelly H. Ball, a doctoral candidate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and Randy Gue, MARBL's curator of Modern Political and Historical Collections.

"We are excited that MARBL's LGBT collections continue to grow," Gue says. "This exhibit is a great way to highlight the depth and breadth of these materials. MARBL has held some of these collections for years and some of them are new. 'Building a Movement in the Southeast' gives these materials the attention they deserve, and it highlights the close relationship between our LGBT collections and our collections that document the history of Atlanta and social justice movements."

The exhibit spotlights materials from the MARBL collections of activist Jesse Peel, playwright and activist Rebecca Ranson, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, the National Association of Black and White Men Together, The American Music Show, and AID Atlanta, in addition to items from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA)  and the Emory University Archives.

A selection of books from MARBL’s extensive collection of gay paperback books from the 1960s and 1970s will be on display, and visitors can use a stationary iPad to browse through some of the other colorful and sometimes outrageous covers from the collection. There are more than 900 titles in the collection, so only a small portion of the titles will be loaded to the iPad.

“Some of the materials in the exhibit are painful, while others will make you smile. Our commitment as curators is to both preserve these materials for future generations and to make them publicly accessible now,” Ball says. “The materials do their own work: they inspire, they invigorate, they remind us of our collective past and they turn us to thinking about the future.”

Other materials featured in the exhibit include:

  • Photos and other items from “The American Music Show,” including shots of RuPaul, who made his television debut on the Atlanta public-access TV show in the early 1980s. 
  • Samples of local and national LGBT print culture, including a copy of Gay News Atlanta from January 1979, which featured a cover story on a Macon gay rights group, and a copy of Stonewall Romances, a publication marking the 10th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that includes an interview with transgender activist Sylvia Rivera.
  • Materials from the papers of activist Jesse Peel, including copies of his book “The Camp Merton Chronicles,” the published version of his journals detailing his regular informal fundraisers for HIV/AIDS support groups and the many funerals he attended for those who died from AIDS, among other aspects of his life.
  • Newsletters and selections from the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) library. Members could check out books that ranged from art and poetry to practical and legal advice such as “Motherhood, Lesbianism and Child Custody,” written by Francie Wyland in 1977, one of the books to be displayed in the exhibit.
  • Materials from the Emory University archives that illustrate campaigns initiated as early as the 1970s for policies related to discrimination, harassment and same-sex partner benefits and for support of LGBT faculty, students and staff.

“The curatorial team has pulled a compelling variety of materials from our LGBT collections, ranging from the colorful hand-drawn credit panels for the 'The American Music Show' to poignant materials documenting the devastation and activism of the AIDS crisis,” says Kathryn Dixson, library exhibitions manager. “As the collections grow, we look forward to staging additional exhibitions in the future.”

The exhibit will run until May 16, 2014. The Robert W. Woodruff Library is located at 540 Asbury Circle in Atlanta, 30322. Parking is available in the Fishburne deck.

For more information, contact Randy Gue at randy.gue@emory.edu.

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