From lesbian relationships in the early 1900s to student activists struggling with the AIDS crisis to a five-star rating from the Campus Pride Index, LGBTQ life at the University of Chicago ( UChicago ) has been a part of its fabric since the beginning.
"Closeted/Out in the Quadrangles," a project directed by the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, promises to bring these histories to life through oral accounts and artifacts, including love letters between two of the university's first female professors and a square from the NAMES Project Foundation quilt memorializing students who died in the AIDS epidemic.
"It has been extremely rewarding to spend this time exploring and helping to share these histories," said Gina Olson, project director and associate director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. "It's allowed me the chance to think about the power in telling and shaping one's own history, and of those of communities, struggles and identities."
Juxtaposing artifacts with oral histories told by alumni and current students, the exhibit seeks to provide viewers a glimpse into LGBTQ life at the university, from original research on sexual cultures in Chicago done by sociology students in the 1930s to the many challenges that LGBTQ faculty and students often faced.
"Many of the narrators from before the 1980s mentioned people we should have spoken to who died from HIV/AIDS," said Lauren Stokes, the exhibit curator and project coordinator. "Perhaps most prominently Henry Wiemhoff, the person who originally founded Chicago Gay Liberation on campus. The exhibit charts a lot of progress that has been made in the University's recognition of LGBTQ communities, but it's important that we also remember the loss and absence that marks this history."
The exhibit will run fthrough June 15 at UChicago's Regenstein Library. Find out more at news.lib.uchicago.edu/blog/2015/03/10/closetedout-in-the-quadrangles-a-history-of-lgbtq-life-at-the-university-of-chicago/ .