What was Queering the Archive? A participant perspective


What was Queering the Archive? A participant perspective

Ana Marques Pereira has written a description of what it was like taking part in our Queering The Archives research and zine project this year:

The aim of this project was to use material from the university archives, to uncover and create a queer zine for Canterbury Pride 2024.

To start, Bob, our project lead, shared some of his collection of various zines to give us a sense of what we were going to create. Then me and a small group of fellow volunteers, discussed what we thought of queer, what we hoped to find in the archives, and read some academic material on the topic to help us with our research.

The following was research sessions, where we got to look at books from the university’s archives, both fiction and non-fiction, kindly shortlisted by Michelle, our research librarian. We each followed our interest and perused the material, tacking photos of passages or images that matched the theme. This was interesting in a research sense because I wasn’t reading the full novel, for example, only working through it, reading bits and pieces, and understanding the overall story, while finding what I was looking for. It was curious to find school-related stories because these tended to involve friendships between those of the same sex, the closer and more intimate of which, in terms of love or jealousy, reinforced a gay or lesbian interpretation of the work. Moreover, ‘The girl’s own paper’ was a particularly interesting resource, especially considering it was primarily for a female audience. I found lots of examples of female adoration and beauty in images and poems perfect for the zine. This stage of the process took time, but it was enjoyable and calming.

All that I had found, I had emailed to Bob, who kindly printed and kept my materials separate, in preparation for the next stage of the process – making pages for the zine. It helped to look at pages that others had been making, and the feel and vibe that each person’s personality, creativity and way of working introduced to our collaborative project. Some had made blackout poems, while another a compilation of research and throughout interesting collages. 

For my part I took my gathered research material, along with some from other’s that I found interesting, with some additional pages of collaging-appropriate printouts (of newspapers or adverts or images,) and some patterned pages (to add colours, instead of just the greyscale of photocopies to make it more visually interesting). This gave me lots of pages to potentially use, so I separated them into smaller bundles, making sure to have the background plain paper (to stick everything unto), a patterned page, as well as collaging and research material for each, making the task more manageable. Still there was a lot of material in each bundle, so rather than being able to make single pages, I ended up making two- or three-page spreads with coherence in theme since the decoration and materials used went well together. And it mattered to me in which order these would be displayed, so I made notes on the back of which of a pair went left or right.

For each bundle, I started by cutting out the pieces that were most important to include such as quotes that spoke of love, bliss, pleasure, beauty, etc. Or poems in which the narrator’s gender was ambiguous, and it had a female protagonist and female writer. And images where the individual lady looks serene, or if they’re not the singular focus how the eyes of her female companion seem in adoration, or how a male lounged in the grass with his tea looks perfectly flamboyant, for example. Sometimes the writing I found was in opposition to what I’d want to share, in which case I could take the words and rearrange them to have a more optimistic message rather than outdated views.

Then it was a matter of arranging the cut-out pieces together, which like scrapbooking was very fun. And adding brief writing or doodles if it complimented the content. And sticking everything down (despite not liking the texture of a glue stick).

When everything was said and made it’s just a case of giving the pages over, for Bob to minimize from A4 pages into an A5 booklet, and reprint and create our zine, ready for its intended distribution during Pride month. And I can’t wait to see our project in completion and how it’s received.

You can download your own copy of the Queering The Archive zine ‘Making Friends’ using this link. All the images in this post are from Ana’s work and feature inside the zine.

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