Special Collections and University Archives is excited to announce our newest digital collection: The Alumni Oral History Collection! This collection aims to document and preserve the unique perspectives of Mary Washington alumni in their own words, and—with the permission of the interview participants—share them with the world!
The first interviews in the collection are the stories from the LGBTQ Alumni Affinity Group. These interviews were initially conducted by Professor Erin Devlin’s HIST 441: Oral History class in Spring 2019. Professor Devlin worked with Alumni Relations Executive Director Mark Thaden (’02) to identify oral history narrators through the affinity group. Thaden himself even agreed to participate!
Students carried out, recorded, and transcribed the interviews with the alumni, and obtained permission from those participants who volunteered to have their interviews archived and shared. The interviews were transferred to Special Collections and University Archives where the transcripts were edited for clarity and style and then uploaded to Preservica, our digital preservation and access platform.
The stories that make up the collection are as varied and interesting as the alumni who told them. Twenty-four interviews—over fifteen hours of interview content—cover the history of LGBTQ alumni at Mary Washington from the late 1960s to just a few years ago. Narrators provide wonderful glimpses of student life, friendships, and fun; there’s more than one awed perspective on seeing the campus for the first time, and a very Mary Washington meet-cute told from both sides. There are great stories of drag shows, road trips, parties, sports, activism, and inspiring individuals they remember from their days as students.
The oral histories also feature some raw moments of struggle, grief, and uncertainty. Some alumni recount devastating national events, like 9/11 and the horrific 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd, and describe the impacts felt on campus. Others tell of complex family relationships, or the loss of friends. The narrators look back on their multitude of experiences with honesty, and it’s a privilege to listen.
We are very happy to launch this collection in time to celebrate Pride Month! UMW Special Collections and University Archives supports all members of the LGBTQ+ community every day. We recognize that archives are not neutral, and we are actively working to make sure that when we help tell the story of Mary Washington, it includes all the important voices that deserve to be heard.
All images courtesy of UMW Special Collections and University Archives.