For my archive, I would want to talk to LGBTQ poets throughout the contemporary period. I would want to track first-person accounts of how LGBTQ literature and the community has changed through the decades. For example, an older poet who lived through Stonewall or the HIV/AIDS epidemic would have a different experience and perspective compared to a younger poet. I would prefer to have more prominent poets, but it would also be interesting to interview smaller poets who are well-versed in spoken word, as they’d likely give an articulate oral recount. I imagine they would describe everything from personal experiences to their perspectives on broader LGBTQ events, like the dismantling of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the recent Pulse shooting. Both public and personal events can be very inspiring for writers.
Lived experiences can be documented in several ways. I’ve come across several examples in archives including newspaper articles with eye witness accounts, public court statements, oral accounts, and videos of people recounting their stories. I don’t know if there’s anything essentially queer about that type of archiving. Perhaps in the same way that queerness evades definition, there are so many ways to archive lived experiences that it cannot be tied down to one example.
Fleeting moments pose several issues for archives. For one, there may be minimal witnesses or individuals that lived through that experience. For another, those that experienced a fleeting moment may have only partial memories. This is especially true if there has significant time between the event and documentation, and if the incident was traumatic. Impermanent institutions can make tracking and keeping documentation difficult for archives. The same way a broken link can make an archive item impossible to access online, having a physical archive item that is constantly moving through museums and institutions makes it difficult to keep track and exemplify different items. All of this should be considered when archiving first-person accounts and oral history.