Review of Magnolia Memories Exhibit at Jackson Municipal Art Gallery

Review of Magnolia Memories Exhibit at Jackson Municipal Art Gallery

Brittany Ellis (she/her)The Invisible Histories Project had an amazing exhibition titled Magnolia Memories: An Exhibit on Mississippi’s LGBTQ History back in September, and I had the wonderful opportunity of attending its opening reception as a Fall 2023 IHP intern!The exhibit displayed Mississippi’s rich LGBTQ history through information gathered in six different queer Mississippian newspapers: The Lesbian Front, This Month in Mississippi, The Mississippi Voice, Pink Magnolias, Wimminspace, and The Hericane. It was open to the public from September 30 to October 21, 2023, at the Municipal Art Gallery in Jackson, Mississippi. While it was immediately evident that so much hard work was put into the exhibit by so many different people, it was exhilarating to see that it was the work of interns just like me that aided IHP in creating the exhibit, as advertised on fliers beforehand and by large posters in the gallery room.I just found out I would be able to attend the reception just two days before. Margaret Lawson (Assistant Director whom we interns meet with monthly) had mentioned the reception and invited me to it about a month prior during a Zoom meeting, but I got caught up in graduate schoolwork that I had forgotten about it completely. While I’m from the Jackson suburb area, I work about three hours away in Oxford, so I also was not sure if I could take the time off work to attend the reception. I was at work one morning when a colleague here that oversees Queer Mississippi [an archival project also gathering queer history through a partnership with the University of Mississippi and IHP] asked me if I was attending the reception as she was filling out a travel form. After clearing it with my boss, I was able to fill out a travel form along with Dr. Eva Payne and get funding to attend. Within a blink of an eye, Friday the 29th of September rolled around, and I was driving to Jackson!Although there were some funny curveballs (parking and cleaning up a sick child’s vomit), the reception was marvelous. The exhibit itself was informative yet fun with each poster fitting a visual aesthetic from the time period of the timeline displayed on it. As I walked around, I saw places mentioned across Mississippi that I recognized with histories that were new to me. Although the exhibit was not yet opened to the public, the gallery was full of people. I was able to meet Margaret in person for the first time after many Zoom meetings. I even met with Josh Burford and Maigen Sullivan who cofounded and run IHP. I got to hear the perspectives of my professional historian colleague as we moved around the exhibit.Although my metadata collection was not used for this exhibit (since I had just started pulling information from The Southern Voice in Atlanta a month prior), it was so exciting and rewarding to know that the work I was doing with IHP would result in something so beautiful. The stories felt so alive and real, not just words on my screen as I scrolled through hundreds of newspaper articles alone in my apartment. I’ve enjoyed my work as a metadata intern, but the words can start to blur after a while, and you can start to forget just how important each small detail is. Seeing the rooms full of timelines, clothing, newspaper clippings, and everything else made it so real just how important the metadata stage is for exhibit design. As a queer student, I rarely had the opportunity to know about my own history; however, IHP allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the pioneers who bravely came before me in my home state and reaffirm my passion for becoming an archivist after I graduate with my MLIS this spring. I can’t wait to see the day that the metadata information I pulled as an IHP intern gets displayed in a gallery somewhere.at my hotel in Jackson the next morningIt was such an unforgettable experience that I’m so happy I was able to attend.Review of Magnolia Memories Exhibit at Jackson Municipal Art Gallery was originally published in Invisible Histories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The National Lesbian Conference (1991, Atlanta)

The National Lesbian Conference (1991, Atlanta)

By: Brittany Ellis (she/her)The National Lesbian Conference is a wonderful example of the power of archives, especially queer archives like the Invisible Histories Project. Through pulling metadata on volume 4 of the 1991 editions of the Southern Voice, the story of the first NLC reemerged.Ad for the National Lesbian Conference from February 1991 in Southern VoicePlanning for the conference began 5 years prior in 1986, according to Vol 4 №1 issue of SV published on February 28, 1991. A group of women (Michelle Crone, Kay Ostburg, Joyce Hunter, and Urvashi Vaid) began planning after attending an international lesbian conference in Geneva and then the 1987 March on Washington. There was a set attempt on not being overly planned, letting it be a grassroots event that could “be what lesbians from across the country made it, needed it to be, with as little as possible predetermined by the organizers” (no 1). Ads for NLC proclaimed that the purpose was to “build the Lesbian Nation, create a National Lesbian Agenda, to confront homophobia, to advocate for the civil rights of lesbians, to strengthen our grassroots structure, and to celebrate ourselves” as a women-only space. There were concerns that the Atlanta lesbian community was splintered, so the organizers hoped that the event would prompt more community and direct activism.Southern Voice ads for the National Lesbian Conference.Initially, there were a few criticisms of the NLC (that no one was being paid for presenting and there would be too much “political correctness” about the issues of leather, work, meat, and lesbian erotica magazines). The organizers hoped to avoid addressing these issues by focusing on dismantling ageism, racism, ableism, and classism. They required that “leadership must involve 50% lesbians of color, 20% lesbians with disabilities, and 5% old lesbians.” Great lengths were taken to make the conference disability friendly, as the NLC was perfume-, smoke-, and drink-free.Michelle Crone (left) one of the original organizers of the conference and Mary Lu Lewis (right) National Lesbian Conference CoordinatorDespite it all, over 2,500 women attended the NLC on April 24–28, 1991, in downtown Atlanta. The conference had a full agenda as well as a Friday night dance and a Saturday night concert. There was entertainment, education, workshops, training, comedy, a marketplace of 140 booths, strategy sessions, and even a “Democracy Wall (no 6, pg.11). Many restaurants and stores across Atlanta even published special advertisements welcoming NLC attendees.Despite the apparent success of the conference, there was never another National Lesbian Conference. There were funding issues that resulted in the conference leaders leaving with debt, haphazard last-minute cancellations, little outreach to Asian lesbians, and dysfunction. Nevertheless, the NLC paved the way for greater visibility of lesbians across the South and the nation.The National Lesbian Conference (1991, Atlanta) was originally published in Invisible Histories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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