Olivia Hennessy (she/her), a BA History student at the University of Lincoln, reflects on her experience as a queer history volunteer. This blog primarily discusses Olivia’s involvement with the GIRES A Legacy of Kindness project, which, as she says, has ultimately been an unforgettable experience.

How did I come across this opportunity? What were my intentions?

I saw E-J Scott’s Instagram post about the GIRES Legacy of Kindness project research opportunity that would lead to creating an exhibition and live events at the Bishopsgate Institute. E-J Scott is one of my favourite curators, whom I like for his curatorial practices as well as his activism. So, when I read the post in which he rhetorically inquired if I, the reader, was a queer history student, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to expand my understanding of queer history. Furthermore, capturing the voices of trans and gender diverse people and their supporters and allies, and interpreting them in a heritage context is also really important.

As a student from Lincolnshire, I have noticed a shortage of Queer histories in my community, and I am aware that there are many more hidden histories to discover and share. Ultimately, one of my motivations for volunteering with GIRES is to strengthen my knowledge and skills in categorising and analysing Queer archive documents in preparation for when I analyse Lincolnshire documents.

Another reason why I wanted to become more involved in this project was due to the problematic history of Margaret Thatcher. Since Grantham is my hometown, many individuals I know have not recognised Thatcher for her political nature on Section 28, a legislation prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools, which is ultimately her worst policy. Knowing this, I want to raise awareness of the people affected by Section 28 in Lincolnshire, as well as many other hidden histories.

Archive training session and action day

Despite my lack of knowledge on archives, the archive training that Shaan (he/him), the project manager, arranged with Bishopsgate was insightful and useful. The Bishopsgate Institute itself is an incredible space to explore diverse collections from LGBTQ+ archives to UK Leather and Fetish Archive, and you are always welcome to pop by if you are interested in learning more about the history of your local areas, ancestors, or more!!

Before the training session, we had the action day, where we were able to categorise documents from the different organisations and institutes box. There are so many boxes with important documents which need to be sorted, so it is even more important to have more volunteers involved with the Legacies of Kindness Project.

Stef Dickers, the Special Collections and Archives Manager for Bishopsgate Institute, was incredibly helpful when introducing us to some of the amazing archive collections, which includes very recent events such as the 2022 Trans Pride at Brighton. I also had a conversation with Stef regarding Queer lives in Lincolnshire and whether Bishopsgate had any documents from this region. He was kind enough to show me the documents they collected from Lincolnshire – these were mostly newspaper documents and I found them so interesting! I found out about the attitudes of homosexuality in Grantham during 1970s.

Therefore, I have found this project to be enjoyable, educational and insightful.


By Olivia Hennessy

September 2022

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