My week officially began Sunday at my monthly meeting with the GLBT History Board. Given the unexpected turn of events regarding the Come Out with Pride, I was certainly curious to see how the board would go about handling these sudden and unexpected changes. After all, one of the major reasons for our participation with COWP in addition to enticing people to visit our exhibit was also to offer us the opportunity to advertise for the upcoming History Harvest, which of course never happened. The event had been rescheduled for November 12, which gave us all just enough time to freak out with a few minutes left over to salvage what we could. The biggest problem we faced was the issue concerning volunteers. It had taken a considerable amount of work and weeks of preparation in order to scrounge up even the few volunteers we had been able to amass for October, and now we had to essentially begin from scratch all over again. To complicate the matter further because everyone had arranged their calendars to coincide with the event in October, even a large percentage of the board members themselves found that they would be out of state the week of the event. I myself was momentarily unsure of whether or not I would be able to come as I knew I had to go home a weekend in November for early voting. Dr. Beiler said she would send a mass email out to those who had previously volunteered, but given the short notice as well as the fact that school is heating up with midterms, I do not expect the turnout to be as high as we had in October.
However, since we will no longer be expected to advertise for the History Harvest in November, perhaps we will not need as many volunteers this time around either. I do wonder how the hurricane will affect the outpouring of guests too. I know there were people as far away as California planning on coming to the event. Another issue we faced, which I personally found somewhat amusing, although I am sure the board might have disagreed somewhat, was that they had printed probably hundreds of brochures and promotional flyers advertising upcoming events for the GLBT History Museum, one of which was the History Harvest in November. Unfortunately, however, we had made a slight error, giving the correct date, but citing the incorrect day of the week that the event would be on. As such, the small business cards and their paper equivalents were…somewhat misleading, and had to be scrapped. Some of them will likely have the day changed from Saturday to Sunday utilizing the powers of the all mighty sharpie marker, but it still must have been irksome for the board who was already dealing with twenty other problems at the time.
The History Harvest, which is our next major scheduled event will be this upcoming Sunday between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm at The Center. Naturally, we’re not expecting much of a crowd to show, given that, as previously stated, our advertisement for the event never really got off the ground. I believe we have a second one scheduled sometime in December, however, I do not know if I will still be interning with the GLBT History Center at this point in time. Regardless, even if not many people show up, I am still excited since this will be my first History Harvest, and it is one of the few moments in which as an archivist I will be interacting with the public. We also arranged to go visit the exhibit at the city hall at some point in time during our next board meeting in November. So, at least there’s that bit of uplifting news 🙂
The only other major thing to report about the board meeting was my update regarding my progress regarding the completion of The Center collection and mentioned that I was beginning the processing of the Bruce Ground, and was interested in seeking an informal oral history with him. Isn’t it funny how only a couple of blog posts ago I went on at length about how I would make for a terrible oral historian, and yet some two weeks later here I am. I was hoping since Mr. Ground had been a member of the GLBT History board they might have been able to provide me with a means of contacting him, and sure enough the president, David Bain, was able to supply me with an email account and phone number, although he warned me that they might both be obsolete. Still, it was a starting point. I had already found him on Facebook, so Dr. Beiler suggested I first try and reach out to him through a chat message since that was the most direct line of contact I had with him. With that done, the meeting ended.
MONDAY, I found myself in a bit of a standstill. All last week I had been hashing out my rudimentary list of series, doing my best to group binder after binder into something that resembled what could possibly be called a finding aid. However, because I had to wait for Dr. Beiler to come in to approve the list, I was more or less blocked from further progress on the collection. In some ways, though I think this is good because it gave me more time to adjust my series, go through the collection a third or fourth time, and change my mind about the wording or order of certain things. It also gave me more time to think of other questions to ask Bruce Ground if and when I met with him for my oral interview. Which, might I just say…is really hard. As I said before, I am not the most eloquent in the art of public speaking, and therefore, trying to think of questions, especially insightful and open-ended questions, was proving to be my Achilles heel. The more I sought to prepare for an interview with him, the more nervous I became about the interview itself. What happens if my questions weren’t engaging enough? What happens if they were too general? What happens if they were too specific? How did I balance between conducting a good general oral interview and simultaneously get the answers I needed for the specific questions I had in mind? I didn’t really know. Honestly, I am still trying to figure it out. It seemed to me the best oral historians were those who said the least and listened the most. But were somehow still amazing at directing and moving the conversation along. Perhaps I will listen to a few more on RICHES.
By noon, Dr. Beiler came, and within an hour she had me in her office reviewing my series. A good chunk of our conversation revolved around my original dilemma last week, which was balancing between having too many series as opposed to having too few. She agreed with me in that the collection itself could be most easily divided between BUSINESS and PERSONAL. When I asked about any general rules regarding the number of series as compared to the general size of the collection itself, she seemed to suggest that it was all very dependent upon the nature of the collection you were working with. Although she seemed supportive of my initial ideas, she suggested simplifying it further by taking them and trying to break them down between those two overarching themes, BUSINESS and PERSONAL. We seemed to both agree that the simplest method of processing the collection was simply by maintaining two series, and then breaking it down further into several different sub-series. In comparison to The Center, this is drastically different in form and layout, which I suppose I wasn’t initially expecting. After all, The Center collection had been composed of some 12 series and at least 3 subseries, and this one, in turn, would likely consist of 2 series and more than a 12 subseries. But, I honestly do think this is the simplest and most logical hierarchical order. The only foreseeable problem I face is ultimately deciding whether or not something should be categorized as personal or business. As I believe I mentioned in my last blog update, some of the objects, letters, documents, and postcards lie somewhat ambiguously on the fence. Personal letters concerning business, business being interrupted by personal matters, personal events taking place at his place of business. Still, I think I am off to a good start.
WEDNESDAY I found myself dividing my time between reordering my series into subseries and getting up the courage to message Bruce Ground on Facebook. In the end I managed to divide the vast majority of the series into BUSINESS and PERSONAL and decided in addition to create a third series called PROJECTS which would be used to house the work Ground did for the GLBT History board such as his yearly History Projects, as well as work he did for a production company called Out Front. However, I still have a lot of questions, namely in regards to how Bruce himself related to a lot of material in the collection. What was Out Front Productions? Was that a part of the GLBT History Board, or was that his own personal production company? What ever became of their Out in Orlando: Gay Travel Video? How was he related to such groups as the Orlando Gay Chorus? Was he a member? Was he just a supporter? What was the Hat Box Revue? Who is Bill Rausch to him? Why did he include letters regarding his death? Was he a friend? An employee? A neighbor? Red Ribbon Ball? The Headdress Ball? Disney Gay Days? And I still have no idea who Bette Davis is! The greatest mystery of them all!
Unfortunately, these questions remain a mystery, and as I am writing this now I have still yet to receive a response to my message on Facebook. I am hoping that he simply did not see it and is not actively avoiding me. Although I suppose I am a pretty intimidating person, so it’s completely understandable. If I do not hear back from him by the end of the day perhaps I will try a more traditional means of contact, such as an email. I feel a little strange just calling him up, though, especially after just having reached out to him via Facebook.
Well, even if I do not hear back from him in time before the History Harvest on Sunday, it’s fine. It will, I suppose, give me, even more, time to think of some good questions. Until next time!