Helping An Undergrad Illuminate Local LGBTQ+ History

Christine Wertz ’17 takes a page from history

Many of the most crucial battles in the LGBT+ movement happened in the 1980s, and–as history major Christine Wertz discovered– a number of them happened right here in Baltimore.  Christine already had a topic in mind when she received instruction in doing research for her senior capstone course. But in utilizing Langsdale Library’s various resources– courtesy of sundry departments within the library–she was able to turn her research about the major legislative battles of the LGBT rights movement into an exhibition, currently featured in the Helen P. Denit Honors Lounge.

Wertz explains: “At the beginning of the semester, each student in my capstone class met with  [Langsdale Reference / Instruction Librarian] Kristin Conlin to get a head start on our research – I had already decided that I wanted to do research in the GLCCB collections.”  

The GLCCB Collection are the papers, photos, records, and ephemera donated in 2014 to University of Baltimore from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, which are housed in Langsdale Library’s Special Collections department. There, Christine perused organizational files on Bill 177 (1980)  and Bill 187 (1985 and 1988)– proposed city legislation that would protect gay, lesbian and bisexual Baltimoreans from discrimination, primarily in the workplace.

“I learned a lot about the early organizing of Baltimore’s LGBTQ+ community and I think there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned about that through the GLCCB organizational files at Special Collections than I had time to research,” Christine says.

“The files were instrumental to creating my exhibit – they gave me  [display] material as well as a rich background from which to pull the aspects highlighted in the exhibit.”

In addition to research assists from Kristin Conlin, Head of Special Collections Aiden Faust, and library services technician Adele Marley (yours truly), Christine called on the expertise of Sean Hogan, Head of Access Services, to help her print posters for her exhibition.

Ultimately, aside from uncovering this important piece of local history and sharing it with the campus community, Christine hopes that other students will follow her lead and tap into the wealth of information contained in the GLCCB collection.

“There are many instances throughout history that LGBTQ+ community records have been destroyed, and people have been denied their existence,”  she marvels, adding that students in search of 411 about local LGBTQ+ history and culture need not look far. Also, she opines that unveiling history through archival research can actually be an act of social justice in itself: “More projects with archives like the GLCCB collections at Langsdale make LGBTQ+ history more permanent and visible.”

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