ASU’s BJ Bud Archives works to preserve LGBTQ+ history

When a legendary gay club was set to be demolished to make way for a newer building, efforts were made to save the 307 Lounge.

Although the building did not escape its fate, its destruction helped build something in its place.

Phoenix Pride and Marshall Shore, Hip Historian, responded to the reality of vanishing queer history by launching a project called the Arizona LGBTQ+ History Project with the intention of preserving the under-documented history of the state’s LGBTQ community.

They found a natural match in ASU’s Bj Bud Archives, Arizona’s largest LGBTQ+ collection.

“We all said, ‘Hey, wait a minute, our history is disappearing … from there we really started looking at our history and saving and preserving it,'” Shore said.

The archives are named for Bj Hartley Bud, a lesbian activist who was an integral part of the gay rights movement in Phoenix in the 1970s. She created a local LGBTQ+ newsletter called Sundays Childe, which featured a variety of community updates.

She helped organize the first Pride march in 1981 with the theme “We Are Here” in a march to the state capital. She was instrumental in raising awareness of the AIDS crisis at a time of government neglect.

When Bud died in 1996, the Valley of the Sun Gay and Lesbian Center honored her contributions to the community by naming the collection after her and eventually donating it to ASU in 2004.

“Fortunately, one of the board members was an ASU employee and they donated the collection to ASU, and it sat in our backlog for a couple of years until someone came along to edit it,” said Nancy Godoy, associate archivist and community leader -Driven Archives Initiative.

But the activism that grew out of the demolition of the 307 Lounge and the subsequent Arizona LGBTQ+ History Project raised enough money to catalog, scan and preserve the contents of the donated boxes.

The archive is now permanently funded and cataloged by ASU and continues to preserve LGBTQ+ and marginalized history. The funding also helped create an online database that makes the archives available to the public.

Godoy said she hopes more strange stories will be brought to light by making the archive available to the public, who may be able to provide more information about who or what might be in the photos.

“A lot of university repositories are just used to take collections and materials from communities, but don’t really engage them afterwards and bring that history to life, and we were able to do that,” Godoy said.

Cooperation with communities is one of the main focuses of the initiative. In addition to the interactive archive, the ASU initiative also offers services to the community, such as free workshops on archiving, scanning, and conducting oral history interviews.

The initiative is also committed to local K-12 schools with the philosophy that marginalized and LGBTQ+ history no longer belongs in a closet. The children have the opportunity to be informed about these important things that were not discussed in previous generations.

While the project honors LGBTQ+ history and is named after a lesbian activist, it’s still important to note that most of the donations identified are still white male cisgender representations of queerness, according to Godoy.

“It’s missing, you know, the voices of the BIPOC community within the LGBTQ+ community and then the voices of the trans community members as well. There is still a lot of work that we have to do with the continued funding that we have from ASU shows us that we want to continue this important work,” she said.

According to Godoy, it is imperative that the community learn from the legacy of homophobia and white supremacy that have shaped memories of history. The online archive suggests that transparency and validation of a community’s contributions is the best defense against history whitewashing.

The goal of the archive and outreach services is to ensure that history is remembered fairly and to emphasize that LGBTQ+ and marginalized stories coexist with straight stories.

“I think there is no greater purpose than to be in a world where people in our community and people in every community can live their identities openly without fear and without fear,” said Phoenix Pride spokesperson Jeremy Helfgot.

The Arizona LGBTQ+ History Project strives to highlight marginalized stories and bring them to the general public. It’s about creating a connection within the community.

‚ÄúThere are stories in all of the material and by making it accessible we enable researchers, students and the community to engage with that material and find those hidden stories and bring them to light and show that so There’s a lot of rich history in this community,” Godoy said.

Edited by Andrea Ramirez, Sadie Buggle, Reagan Priest, Sophia Balasubramanian and Grace Copperthite.

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