Student scholar gathers LGBTQ archive

October 2, 2013 12:00 PM

Mary Sparacello

From explicitly homophobic articles to accounts of students bravely coming out following the legalization of  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” senior Lauren Kwiatkowski found surprises every day as she put together a history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) life at Tulane University.

Student Lauren Kwiatkowski

Senior Lauren Kwiatkowski developed the Tulane Queer History Project, which will be given a permanent home in the University Archives this fall. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

“What began as a small, one-summer project has evolved into something so much greater than I ever imagined,” says Kwiatkowski. The Tulane Queer History Project will be given a permanent home in the University Archives this fall.

Project adviser Red Tremmel, a historian and director of the Office for Gender and Sexual Diversity at Tulane, says LGBTQ student organizations have played a historically significant role in providing students with a sense of kinship, well-being and camaraderie in the face of homophobia, transphobia and other forms of bias and discrimination.

“When you’re learning about the history of LGBTQ clubs and activism on campus you’re learning about how people survived and found joy while organizing for fair treatment, respect and civil rights,” says Tremmel.

Kwiatkowski’s work was made possible by a scholarship fund established in memory of Jean “Dean Jean” Danielson, the influential honors program dean who died in 2010.

Kwiatkowski says the Danielson scholarship allowed her to buy specialized boxes and folders to preserve collected materials.

To gather the archive, she talked to current and former members of the Tulane community, pored through old copies of the Jambalaya and Hullabaloo, and conducted oral histories.

“The interviews show researchers that there is no one universal queer experience,” Kwiatkowski says, “but rather an infinite variety with no particular experience being more or less valid than the next.”

Alumni who wish to contribute their materials or personal stories to the archive can contact Kwiatkowski.

Tulane junior Daphne Chan also received a Jean Danielson Memorial Scholarship last summer to conduct cancer research at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Florida.

Mary Sparacello is a writer in the Office of Development.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu