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February 16, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 07
 
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25 years of Gay-rights struggles traced in online exhibit
25 years of Gay-rights struggles traced in online exhibit
ITHACA, N.Y. -- A view of the historical archives of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy organization, will be available for the first time on the Cornell University Library Web site beginning Feb. 8 at http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/HRC/. Highlights from the HRC's paper trail - strategic-planning documents, faxes, minutes, e-mails, press releases, posters and campaign buttons - will be posted in the online-only exhibition, "25 Years of Political Influence: The Records of the Human Rights Campaign." The physical collection at Cornell Library opens to scholars the same day.

A reception beginning at 4 p.m. Feb. 8 on campus in Cornell's Kroch Library will launch the exhibition, and a talk by HRC President Joe Solmonese, entitled "Landscape of Activism," will be featured at 5 p.m. The events are free and open to the public.

The HRC's records arrived at Cornell in 2004 with the support of Cornell Provost Biddy Martin, and curatorial staff have been managing them ever since. At 84 cubic feet, the HRC's records constitute the second-largest of 225 collections within the Human Sexuality Collection in Cornell Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

"With the addition of the Human Rights Campaign records, Cornell's collections in human sexuality will be greatly strengthened," said Martin. "We are proud that the university is home to such important collections."

"We are incredibly excited to have the history of our organization archived at such a prestigious and world-class university such as Cornell," said Solmonese. "With the launch of this collection, a new generation of students will come to know the history of our struggle. It is our hope this archive invigorates a new generation of leaders to step forward and be a voice for equality and fairness."

"These records offer a behind-the-scenes look at how a national organization really functions and adapts," said Brenda Marston, Cornell Library curator of the HRC collection.

Amy Villarejo, director of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cornell, said: "Our students and colleagues will now have guidance for understanding the history of political struggles around LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] issues. The online guide will be a fabulous teaching tool, and student research will help continue the work HRC has done to fight on behalf of LGBT people."

Founded in 1980, the HRC claims 650,000 members. The HRC entrusted its records to Cornell over the Library of Congress and other contenders.

"It was the intensity of our commitment to documenting LGBT politics nationally and our wider commitment to documenting human rights," Marston said. "We showed the HRC staff our French Revolution, anti-slavery and women's suffrage collections. All these materials are used in classes, in undergraduate and graduate research and by researchers around the world. The HRC liked what we wanted to do with their records."

The library's online exhibit offers highlights of the HRC collection as well as videos of demonstrations and AIDS activism in a section that outlines the past 60 years of national LGBT activism.

"This is the first time we have opened a new collection to researchers and simultaneously released a carefully conceived exhibit interpreting and placing the records in a wider context. The exhibit also allows us to share it immediately with remote users," said Marston.

The exhibition is sponsored at Cornell by the Office of the Provost; Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies; the Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Studies Program; and Cornell University Library.

A Cornell press release

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