10 February 2010

500 Years of Lesbian and Gay Related Material in the British Library

about a talk held in the British Library Conference Centre 9th Feb 2010 hosted by Amy Lame as part of LGBT history month.

I went with high expectations. For a start, a talk at the BL generally will be of genuine academic interests, and given my invested interest in Libraries I thought it would be brilliant.

But it really wasn’t. The speaker, who was a reference librarian (Bart somethingorother) was an embarrassment. He’d been given a three month research break to develop a way of making the LGBT material at the library more accessible, mainly online from what I can gather. His research had clearly been intense, but the parts of it he decided to share were indulgent and just-for-laughs, and the whole charade was campy and cringe-worthy.

It was mostly things to do with erotica, be it early manuscripts or recent porn, and there was some mention about people being hung/persecuted etc. But there was no mention of AIDs? Obviously trying to cover 500 years of LGBT history in an hour is ludicrously ambitious, but you’d think that AIDs would play an important part and be a rich source for some genuinely exciting material? And his quick and flippant references to the legalisation bill and to lesbians were more like asides.

If you didn’t go, you didn’t miss much apart from seeing a manuscript where the word “pooff” first appeared and some fairly bland newspaper articles (which are available online anyway and can be accessed through most good universities) the talk should have been about promoting the massive wealth of unique material, giving an overview of the breadth of it and explaining how it can be accessed and used to educate. Instead it was a flamboyant pantomime of cocks and innuendoes.

I should have known, and not even taken my seat, because as we were entering the auditorium, Gimme Gimme Gimme by Abba was playing by KD Lang... how obvious, embarrassing and patronising.

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