Digital Proposal – Mapping Historic LGBTQ+ Spaces and in Seattle

Queer history is full of lost spaces and lost stories, but in the past several decades there have been many grassroots and more academic efforts to preserve queer histories so that even if they aren’t around anymore, they don’t just disappear. My digital project would help bring together research on the grassroots and academic levels in Seattle to create a tool that could be used throughout the city and in classrooms to show the history of queer space in the city. This virtual tour would follow the movement of queer spaces throughout the city, showing what those spaces looked like before in comparison to now, and provide context to how queer people navigated the city and maintained community. The pins on the tour would—in the theoretical final form, at least—include edited story clips from oral histories that have already been recorded, images of the sites when they were LGBTQ+ scenes, and brief written histories that are either excerpts from other work or original writing. The tour would also follow the timeline of LGBTQ+ sites historically as they shifted between neighborhoods and such from the late 1800s through today, with the path moving chronologically.

The center of queer community in Seattle for the past few decades has been Capitol Hill, but that hasn’t always been the case. Centers of queer community sites in the city have moved from neighborhood to neighborhood over more than a century now, and many of those sites have long been replaced by other establishments. Although these places themselves mostly no longer exist, there have been extensive efforts in Seattle to continue to document these histories, from books by historians to oral history projects to local community-run archives. This project will be an attempt to bring these sorts of sources together to create a digital tour that can be used to learn queer history in the classroom and while out exploring the city.

Gay Seattle, by Gary Atkins published by the University of Washington Press
The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Project website’s home page. Here you can find previous publications, collected oral histories, and guidelines for contributing to their collections and exhibits.

The map would have pins on historic sites in Seattle’s queer community, and the path of the pins would go chronologically through the sites as they moved from neighborhood to neighborhood over time. For each pin, there would be some combination of archival photos of the space when it was a queer bar, community center, organization, etc., short written descriptions of what the site was and the role it played in the queer community and Seattle history, and—where applicable—edited audio clips from any oral histories that discuss the site directly.

Often, mainstream tellings of queer history center on the same few places—New York, Washington DC, San Francisco—and moments, like the Lavender Scare, Stonewall riots, and Obergefell v. Hodges. While these places and instances are deeply important to the development of the queer community as it is now, focusing on these locales leaves out a ton of nuance and difference that can be found when expanding the places considered in queer histories. Seattle’s queer community formed in wildly different political, social, and economic contexts than those same communities in the cities mentioned before. In many ways, policing of gay spaces was less severe, the massive increase in military presence in World War II impacted what spaces were safe to gather in, and some early legislative cooperation made political actions and organizations focus on different goals. Without digging into local histories of queer communities in Seattle, however, these things would go entirely unknown in the context of broader national narratives and curriculums teaching about queer history.

Print Proposal – A Regional Analysis of US Nationalism

Nationalism is ever-present in the world today, with nation-states functioning as the basic building block of the international political system at least since the end of World War II, perhaps centuries earlier depending on who you’re talking to. While most of the time nationalism is largely talked about in terms of conservative politics, in reality it’s a universal political tool for people and parties all around the world.

Nationalism is based on the idea that there is one unifying identity that makes people in and from the United States fundamentally American. When investigated, however, it’s quite clear that what is considered “American identity” shifts depending on who is asked and when. While nationalist rhetoric is centered around the idea of stability and sameness, it’s highly adaptable and hard to concretely define. For this project, textual analysis will be used to pull out the broad strokes of what is considered a staple of American identity in different regions in the United States. National identities are constructed through (among other things) a construction of history that makes those identities seem timeless or inevitable, but different regions in the United States have vastly different histories and ways they teach and display those histories. I suspect this means that nationalist rhetoric found in the Northwest versus the Southeast versus the Northeast and so on all focus on different elements of regional histories and identities. By analyzing the language from political leaders and organizations separated by region, it will be easier to see both common aspects of American national identity, and any differences in emphasis between people in different regions.

There are several ways to break up the United States into regions based on several different factors. In a quick search, there are maps that have anywhere from four to nine regions in the United States when limited to splits along state lines, maps that ignore formal state lines can have regions well into the double digits. For the purpose of this project, I’m going to use five regions that will be separated from each other along state lines, which will ensure there’s some specificity and to keep central to the project the importance of borders in the construction of national identity. The texts that will be analyzed will be speeches and published writing from politicians and political organizations in each region, as those are the people and groups with the most direct involvement in crafting national identity and using it for their political goals. It also bears repeating that nationalism is not only used in conservative politics, but all mainstream political parties in a nation-state system, so the selected texts will come from politicians and organizations of all political orientations.

National identity is generally accepted as at least somewhat fundamentally true or important, in personal and psychological terms of identity and community formation for individuals, but also in more seemingly innocuous government functions. Whether you can travel to certain places, get certain benefits, participate in elections, and more are all regulated by the national identity attributed to each person at birth. While national identity is ubiquitous in the world today, it is not neutral or natural. It is constructed and utilized by power structures and power holders for explicit political ends. By exploring what constitutes “American identity” in different regions of the country, it is possible to illustrate the fundamentally artificial nature of national identity and nationalism, and make the language, context, and goals of people and groups that utilize nationalism more clear and concrete. It’s easy to say identity is constructed and learned, but it is much more important to break down how that construction works and how those constructions are helpful and harmful in the way people navigate the world around them.

Hi everyone!

Hey y’all, I’m Corinne! There are a few things that I always lead with when introducing myself, so here’s some of the more relevant basics: I was born and raised in Seattle, got my bachelor’s degree at Sarah Lawrence College in May of 2022, and am currently in my second semester of the public history MA program and a graduate fellow with the Humanities Truck right here at AU. Now that I’ve got that barest of minimums out of the way, time for a probably way too long explanation of how I got here in the first place!

So I was born the youngest of three (only because I was upside down and my twin sister wasn’t, I swear) to Oklahoman and Georgian parents who had driven from Alaska down to Seattle a couple years earlier. I had a pretty normal PNW childhood – soccer, lots of flannels, camping, absolutely refusing to use an umbrella. In high school I pretty much just enjoyed my history classes and volunteered with a restorative justice program at my school, then went off to college thinking I’d study politics and history and go to law school. After going to one pre-law meeting, however, I decided law school actually sounded like a nightmare, so instead I chose the two most useful degree concentrations of all time: history and film. Clearly the two most easily employable fields ever.

Bronx River Reflections, shot entirely on smartphones and made from concept to final cut in one semester!

In my work with history, I really focused on 20th century political movements, especially anti-colonial nationalism in practice and the way nationalism functions as a tool more generally. In my film classes I did a bit of everything in the production and post-production phases, and in my final semester I and three other people in my class (plus a very talented composer I know) made a documentary about the Bronx River over the course of a semester! All of this came together to make me really love telling stories and understanding how narrative uses emotions to create community, history, and identity to inspire positive and negative action.

I knew that more school was coming my way, and I also knew I didn’t want to be in a field where the only people who cared about my work were other academics with the same niche interests as me. I looked for more public-focused options, found public history, and it immediately felt right up my alley!

Since getting to DC, I’ve been doing lots of on-the-ground work with the Humanities Truck, from event planning to interviewing to archiving. I’ve also focused in classes on ways to utilize different forms of media to make history engaging, accessible, and relevant to more people who don’t think they care about history. One of my projects from last semester was a map of Seattle with edited audio clips from oral histories pinned around the city sharing how Black and Asian men were at times excluded or welcomed into labor movements of the early 20th century. This semester and moving forward, I hope to do more projects like this, that can be used in educational spaces and on the street to get people engaged in their own local histories and remind them that history is everywhere, it’s always being made, and they always have and will play a role in it!