University Archives displays exhibit on the history of LGBTQ student life at IU

An exhibit entitled “‘An Army of Lovers Cannot Be Conquered’:  Exploring the History of LGBTQ Student Life in Bloomington” is open at the University Archives on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the event description on the IU Bloomington Calendar, the exhibit features some of the images, objects and stories of LGBTQ student life at IU. 

Kennedy Jones, a third year graduate student and the exhibit’s curator, was inspired by the University Archives’s previous exhibit on the history of the African Studies Department.

As curator, Jones said he was not only responsible for generating the idea for the exhibit but also conducting research and putting the exhibit together.

“I was trying to collect objects or items or things that I could eventually put on display,” Jones said.

Jones said he started the exhibition by looking through the resources available in the University Archives. When organizations and names were mentioned in the archives with little information, Jones would turn to Google or others to learn more. 

Jones said he ended up reaching out to other places to get materials and information for the exhibit, like the Kinsey Institute Library and Archives.

“One of the big challenges was trying to centralize those resources or bring them together for the exhibition,” Jones said.

The most important thing for IU students to understand about the exhibit, Jones said, is that it’s not comprehensive and shouldn’t be taken as a total perfect statement about that history. 

“I did my best to include as many voices and as much material as I could, but there’s limited space and a limited amount of time and energy that could be put into it,” Jones said.

LGBTQ+ student life, Jones said, is a topic that gets some attention nationally, but in smaller places like Bloomington, there aren’t as many people bringing awareness to that history.

“It’s important for people here to connect that kind of larger history to their personal lives,” Jones said. “Being able to see that in their own community is really important.”

The exhibit is expected to be open through June for Pride Month and will most likely be taken down at the end of July. Jones said the University Archives were planning on doing a virtual exhibit that will hopefully come together over the summer.

Katelyn King, director of advocacy for the Queer Student Union, said an institution needs to remember its history and how its acted in the past to inform their future actions. It’s easy for small organizations to do this, King said, by ensuring that there isn’t only one person who knows how to do something. In a large organization like IU, remembrance needs to be formalized.  

“A large part of many people’s queer experience is defined by a lack of knowledge, either their own lack of knowledge or other people’s,” King said.

IU freshman and LGBTQ+ Culture Center library coordinator Sym Cloyd said remembering the past LGBTQ student life drives members of the Queer Student Union to continue working and advocating.

“Some of the things that would happen on IU’s campus towards queer people wasn’t that long ago,” Cloyd said. “There’s still that reminder of ‘Hey, this is how it once was and we are a generation trying to build better.’”

Cloyd said they thought IU allowing an exhibit that focuses on queer love and queer people in their history is so beautiful.

“I hope that like any students seeing this, maybe they’re closeted, or maybe they’re not as open about their sexuality, or about being queer, they could see that exhibit and be comfortable,” Cloyd said.

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