Queer Memory Project sheds light on NoCo’s LGBTQ+ history

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Collegian | Avery Coates

The founder of the Queer Memory Project, Tom Dunn, sits in the Lory Student Center for a headshot. Dunn has been researching the LGBTQ+ community since 2005.

Samy Gentle , News Reporter

Members of the Fort Collins community are working together to uncover and preserve local LGBTQ+ histories through the Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado.

The Queer Memory Project of Northern Colorado is an “educational and community-based project to discover, preserve and communicate the LGBTQ+ past of Northern Colorado to contemporary audiences in meaningful ways,” said Tom Dunn, director of the project. Dunn is also an associate professor of communication studies at Colorado State University.

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The QMP was publicly launched in November 2021 to align with LGBTQ+ History Month, Dunn said. However, phase one of the project, which included building the QMP online archive and website as well as networking in the NoCo community, began in 2020. Phase two of the project is slated to begin in 2022 and will focus on community engagement and student participation.

The QMP is actively looking to create an advisory board of members from all over NoCo with a multitude of LGBTQ+ identities to direct the project as it enters phase two, Dunn said. The board will include members with a CSU connection and without.

The QMP receives its funding from the CSU Monfort Excellence Fund and will continue to be supported through 2023, Dunn said. 

The mission of the QMP is to “uncover the region’s queer past and to help make our communities more safe, more welcoming and more just,” according to their website. 

“Very few people learn about LGBTQ+ history in school or even college, and so people think it doesn’t exist, and LGBTQ+ people don’t see themselves represented there, but it does exist, and it is important,” Dunn said. 

“This past is rich and complex and moving and dynamic, and every day, we lose more and more of it” – Tom Dunn, Director of the Queer Memory Project

The QMP aims to preserve Northern Colorado’s LGBTQ+ history through its online archive and other archives of NoCo organizations using methods such as “training students and volunteers to collect oral histories from community members about their own life experiences,” Dunn said. 

CSU students wishing to become more knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ history will have the opportunity to enroll in SPCM 380A5: communicating the queer past, offered in the spring of 2022 and taught by Dunn. The course is directly connected to the work of QMP, Dunn said. 

“The class will spend significant time learning about how and why LGBTQ+ pasts have been seen as so deeply dangerous by heterosexual society and the costs to our community and others when those pasts are erased,” Dunn said.

In addition to reading about history, the course will also include guest speakers as well as students going out and engaging with the NoCo community.

Members of the NoCo community can do their part to contribute to the QMP.

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“We’ll be looking for people both to share their own stories with us or to help collect these community stories,” Dunn said. 

You might show us some forgotten files or documents, share old photographs or participate in an oral history interview with our trained researchers,” said Shelby Crow, a Ph.D. student who will be assistant teaching Dunn’s queer memory course. Ultimately, your contributions may help shape the stories we tell future generations about the history of Northern Colorado.”

According to Crow, NoCo residents can also get more involved in the QMP by taking educational classes, volunteering and attending events.  

The QMP hosts events about the region’s LGBTQ+ past throughout the year but especially during Pride Month in June and LGBTQ+ History Month in October, Crow said. 

According to the QMP website, groups and communities in the NoCo region may also request the QMP to hold events such as talks and presentations about the LGBTQ+ past. 

This past is rich and complex and moving and dynamic, and every day, we lose more and more of it,” Dunn said. “So honoring and respecting that past by preserving and sharing it feels like vital work every day.”

Reach Samy Gentle at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samy_gentle_.