This week I continued my work researching sites to include in the list of LGBTQ historic sites in Philadelphia, I finalized preparations for the PrideFest Memory Mapping booth this Sunday, the 18th, I met with Amanda Casper and Bill Bolger in the Northeast Regional Office to discuss how my work on assessing LGBT historic sites intersects with theirs, and received some valuable feedback, I attended an orientation for PrideFest at the William Way Community Center, familiarized myself with Susan Ferentinos’s work prior to our meeting with the PA LGBT History Network today, Friday the 16th, and met with Susan Ferentinos for lunch after that meeting this afternoon.
This week most of my time was dedicated towards preparing for PrideFest and the Memory Mapping booth I will be hosting there. I also spent considerable time preparing for my meeting with Susan Ferentinos this afternoon. That said, I did also work towards substantiating another site on the list. This week’s site was Maxine’s, now Tavern on Camac, which stood at 243 S. Camac Street. Maxine’s can be considered the earliest gay bar in Philadelphia with origins as a speakeasy in the 1920s and emerging as Maxine’s in 1936 until it closed in 1979. After Maxine’s closed, Ed Klarin and Louis Rodrigues bought the property, renaming it as Raffles, another gay bar which operated for 20 years. Joey Guidotti bought the property in 1999 opening yet another gay bar, this one Tavern on Camac which still operates today. This site clearly has a very colorful history, and I think it is worth examining more closely as a potential site for nomination.
In preparation for PrideFest this Sunday I did several things this week. I finalized details on the contact sheets, replacing the “address” column for “neighborhood/city” information instead. This could provide preliminary demographic information on which neighborhoods have the greatest representation at Pride. I also picked up some thin, rectangular sticky notes that won’t take up much space on the map, and on which participants can write the names of the places they connected with. On Tuesday evening, the William Way Community Center held an orientation session for those volunteering at PrideFest. I met a number of people who will be at the booth with me Sunday, and briefly explained what I will be doing. They seemed enthusiastic about it, and I hope to have them participate as well.
Tuesday morning, I met with Amanda Casper and Bill Bolger at the Northeast Regional Office. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about applying NPS criteria to potential sites for nomination, and about their backgrounds on this project as well. I gave them examples of sites I think have the strongest cases for nominations as NHLs, and they provided some great feedback. They also helped me start thinking of other community outreach possibilities, in addition to the PrideFest booth.
Because I knew Susan Ferentinos would be at the PA LGBT History Network meeting this morning, I took time on Tuesday and Wednesday to familiarize myself with her work. First, by reading her chapter from the Theme Study on interpreting LGBT historic sites, and then by reading her book Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites. She published the book first, in 2014, and it was interesting to see how she took themes and methods from a book geared more towards museums and similar sites, and refocused them towards a National Park Service interpretive plan. A common theme between the two was her assertion that in interpreting apparent LGBT histories further back than 1880 we must take into account differences in understandings of sexuality between then and now. Much of the LGBT history I encounter in Philadelphia’s historic sites comes later than 1880 (an approximate date of origin for the scientific approach to understanding alternative sexuality and gender expression), so this does not implicitly affect my methodology, but it is still worth reflecting on my understandings of sexuality and gender identity, and consider what it meant to my subjects in their own time.
This morning I met with the PA LGBT History Network after hearing from Mike Doveton about the meeting a week or so ago. There were folks present from National History Day, the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Youth Congress, and the John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives at the William Way Community Center. The folks from the LGBT Center of Central Pennsylvania spoke about their goals for a traveling exhibit that showcases the lack of legal protections afforded in all but thirty-seven municipalities in Pennsylvania by telling the stories of those cities and municipalities which succeeded, and even those that failed. For such a project, they want to partner with the other organizations in Pennsylvania doing similar LGBT work, including William Way, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and others. As someone from an area that does not afford such protections I was inspired by this proposal and I look forward to following up on it, and even contributing to it, down the road.
After the formal meeting, Susan Ferentinos and I went to lunch and discussed our projects, how they intersect, methodologies, and we also talked about some of the sites we have researched. This was an amazing opportunity and
I look forward to keeping in touch with her as we both continue our assessments of LGBT historic sites.