Preserving Our History |

4 mins

Preserving Our History

O ver 34 years, the lives of LGBTQ+ people, their stories, successes and struggles have been captured in the pages of GCN magazine. Now, in huge news for anyone interested in Ireland’s queer history, GCN’s early days as our national queer press will finally make the leap from the world of newsprint into the digital realm, becoming an accessible online archive while also being protected for generations to come.

For the GCN Archive Project, Archival Lead Han Tiernan and Tonie Walsh, Archival Consultant and founder of GCN, will work to preserve a trove of Irish queer history for posterity.

The first phase of the digitisation project will focus on the years between 1988 to 1998. Using archival grade scanning, the aim is to capture each issue as fully and accurately as possible. Once this process is complete, the team will begin the indexing and tagging process so that they are fully searchable with a view to making them available through GCN’s online platforms. The team will also be depositing the collection with a number of cultural institutions to ensure its longterm preservation.

Speaking of the project, Han Tiernan described, “Working with GCN is a huge privilege at the best of times. It is a stalwart of Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community and getting to support the work we do is incredibly rewarding. I have been reading GCN for over 20 years and when I first came out, it was one of the first ways that I connected with the community.

“In 2019/2020 when I began researching the GCN archives for the Queer-in-Progress Timeline with Project Arts Centre, I was struck by how vital the magazine has been in documenting Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community but also in highlighting wider societal changes and how they have reflected upon queer culture.

“Through this work in exposing lesbian, feminist, bisexual, Trans, and HIV and AIDS histories, I realised how many of our community’s stories remain untold and GCN forms an integral part in uncovering those narratives and keeping those histories alive.

“From nearly a decade of ‘Lesbian Pages’ to the regular ‘Dykes Forums’ column; the ‘Positive Living’ feature to supplements like the Munster GCN and the Connaught GCN, the ‘Letters to the Editor’ and even the ‘Community Listings’, the lived experiences and diversity of our community have been reflected through the pages of GCN for over 34 years.

“The digitisation of GCN’s archive forms the next vital chapter in preserving these stories and making these hidden histories visible again.

Tonie Walsh, who will be working alongside Han for this necessary preservation work, added, “GCN has been serving the Irish LGBTQ+ community since February 1988. The publication has provided essential visibility, representation, and connection for a minority community who experience a lot of discrimination and prejudice from wider society. As the nation’s LGBTQ+ paper of record, GCN is tasked with documenting change for our community and society by reporting on and recording the concerns of our LGBTQ+ family across the past 34 years. The seismic societal changes in our country and our community’s journey can be tracked through the pages of GCN.

“GCN’s holding of original print editions, ancillary photos and other text docs constitutes one of Ireland’s most significant collections of LGBTQ+ archive materials. Back copies of GCN (dating from 1988) exist in only a small number of copyright libraries in Ireland and the UK. For the most part, they remain undigitised and unavailable for research and public reference. As Ireland’s ‘queer paper of record’, GCN plays a significant role in platforming and preserving the stories of LGBTQ+ life on the island of Ireland. This role is hampered by the fact that over half of the magazine’s print run is unavailable to its readers, especially people living away from large urban centres like Dublin, Belfast, and Cork.

“The immediate objective of digitisation is to arrest the deterioration of delicate, fading newsprint dating from 1988 onwards and put in place better preservation protocols for the ongoing care of the magazine’s archive. Digitisation has immediate benefits of retrieval and access for journalists working on the magazine, mainstream print and broadcast media, and academic researchers. Crucially, the magazine’s back catalogue will become available to its readers for the first time.

“GCN’s listings, features, and news have a significantly higher value to LGBTQ+ women and men living in rural isolation; those who cannot access social support and information services that are more embedded in larger urban centres in Ireland. As GCN began its print run in the years before Decriminalisation in 1993, these magazine issues are of utmost importance to our community and should be protected as the historical documents they are. This digitisation project will ensure that the archive is fully accessible and will be an invaluable resource for researchers, academics and the members of the public alike.”

As the LGBTQ+ community moves forward together into the future, GCN in turn looks forward to sharing our past.

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