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Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project

What is the Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project?

The Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project is a partnership between the LGBTQ Center, the Women’s Studies Program and the Vassar College Archives that began in the fall of 2012. The goal of the project is to capture the experiences, stories and reflections of LGBTQ and ally alumnae/i as well as former and current LGBTQA staff members. LGBTQ Center staff, faculty, alumnae/i, archivists and students recognize the need to expand Vassar’s LGBTQ holdings as a way to document our LGBTQ history for both posterity and for current and future students to use in their academic research. The LGBTQ Center director and student research assistants are trained in oral history methods by local non-profit Sound and Story, and conduct 90-minute to three-hour interviews with interested Vassar LGBTQ community members.

It is the hope of the project that going forward, students and other researchers will use theses oral history narratives as sources for individual or collaborative research. As a guide through the rich LGBTQ history of Vassar College, these oral histories are first-person accounts of life at Vassar over the past 50 years!

How can I access audio and/or transcripts from the interviews?

As of April 2014, the Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project Team has conducted 13 interviews, in addition to the 6 oral histories gathered as part of the Women’s Studies 219 class, Queering the Archive. Some of these interviews are already available at the link below, and as additional audio, commentary and transcripts are finalized, they will be posted.

To see what is available, visit Vassar College Library Oral History Collection.

Additional Vassar College LGBTQ archival material can be found in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Lives Manuscript Collection, 1990-2002, housed in the Archives & Special Collections Library.

What can I use interview audio and transcripts for?

Anyone is welcome to access any of the audio and transcripts posted online to learn more about LGBTQ stories and/or for research. Just make sure you cite your source!

Some materials gathered as part of the Project are only available in the Library, as per the request of the interviewee. To learn more about what other LGBTQ oral history materials are available in the Library, contact Vassar College Archivist Laura Streett.

Who is a part of the Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project Team?

  • Jodie Castanza, Director for Campus Life LGBTQ and Gender Resources
  • Hiram Perez, Assistant Professor of English, Women’s Studies, Africana Studies
  • Laura Streett, Archivist, Vassar College Libraries
  • Cheyenne Tobias '18, Women’s Center student intern
  • Gabe Kawugule '17, LGBTQ Center student intern

What’s next in the Vassar LGBTQ Oral History Project?

In the summer of 2013, the Vassar College LGBTQ Oral History Project received funding from the Vassar Social Justice and Inclusion Fund to do a two-week pilot. Naimah Petigny '14, Logan Keane '15 and Judy Jarvis '07 interviewed 10 people, including alums and current and former employees. The team also transcribed 7 of the interviews and created a plan for the next academic year and beyond.

Given that the pilot was a great success, the next big step for the LGBTQ Oral History Project is to find a source of funding so that we can do an extensive amount of interviewing, transcribing, and archiving during a month or two months of the summer. There are so many alums and former employees clustered in New York City, so for example, with additional funding, project team members could travel to NYC and interview Vassar LGBTQ community members where they live and work. 

In the meantime, we are chugging along, doing at least an interview or two each semester at Vassar; working with the Archives to make the current interview audio and transcripts available to students and researchers; and offering oral history method trainings to folks interested in joining the LGBTQ Oral History Project team.

If you or anyone you know is interested in contributing financially to the Vassar College LGBTQ Oral History Project, please contact the LGBTQ Center Director.

How can I get involved?

If you are interested in being interviewed for the project, please contact the LGBTQ Center Director.  Given our funding situation, we may not be able to interview everyone immediately, but it would be wonderful to add you to our list of interested interviewees.

If you are a current Vassar student and are interested in helping gather stories for the project, we would love to get you involved as an interviewer and transcriber. All interviewers must complete an oral history methods training, so contact the LGBTQ Center director to share your interest and she will let you know when the next set of trainings are coming up.