The public service staff of Special Collections and Archives work closely with researchers daily. We regularly share stories here about research in Special Collections and Archives that yielded successful outcomes. By doing so, we hope to further expose the wide variety of research that our collections support and to encourage others to ask us for assistance. You can reach us at email@example.com or 949-824-3947.
SUCCESS STORY 7
WHO: My name is Ian Baldwin, and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Currently, I am researching my dissertation which explores forms of housing inequities for LGBT people in greater Los Angeles from the late 1960s through the mid-1990s.
THE CHALLENGE: Researching LGBT housing discrimination can often be a challenging task. All too often, records of housing fights, achievements, and setbacks have been lost or fragmented. Moreover, queer historiography has not focused on this crucial aspect of gay life in any detail, making this project interesting in its uniqueness but also difficult in terms of guidance. Within many archives, LGBT collections have not been tagged or described to reflect the housing struggles that can often be seen in the records.
ASSISTANCE PROVIDED: On the second day of my research visit, Steve MacLeod of Special Collections approached me and asked if I had looked at the Joan Ariel housing folders in the collection Joan Ariel Files on Women’s Studies at the University of California, Irvine AS.105. I had neglected to see these folders on the Online Archive of California, so I was intrigued by his suggestion. After two boxes had been pulled, I began to go through folder after folder of materials detailing a dramatic and incredibly important housing fight at Verano Place at UCI from the mid-1980s through the 1990s. For me and my project, it was like striking gold. By the end of the day the resources of UCI Special Collections, which I had believed would be secondary to my project, became one of my primary archives. In addition to steering me towards these records, the staff at Special Collections also offered to put me in touch with some of the activists who fought for LGBT housing rights at UCI. Three oral histories have now been planned from these contacts, which will not only make this project stronger, but will also allow future researchers a chance to learn more about the groundbreaking LGBT activism that occurred at UCI as I am happy and eager to turn these interviews over to UCI Special Collections.
POSITIVE RESOLUTION: The outcome from my research trips to UCI Special Collections, which remain ongoing, could not have been better. My dissertation project has been transformed by my archival finds, but clearly for the better. My research has been geographically and philosophically broadened. I am now more convinced that my project has merit, that it is important, and that it has much to add to the growing shelves of queer history.
MORAL: The LGBT collections housed at UCI are very resourceful. As a scholar working on queer Southern California, it surprises me how untapped many of these resources are. While much attention is placed on the ONE Archives in Los Angeles, UCI houses certain collections, especially those that detail gay activism in a university setting, that are priceless and unique. As gay scholarship moves forward, I predict that many more researchers will focus on the LGBT collections at UCI. I can say that, in regards to my own research and dissertation, the UCI collections have provided me with some of my strongest and most compelling finds. Both the staff and collections at UCI Special Collections will hold a very special place in the heart of my project.