Track 4: Diversity, Population Change, and Gentrification in the Preservation Dialogue
The Historic Preservation community has been slow to focus on issues and sites of LGBT inclusion, this despite the fact that there are so many LGBT professionals in the field. Up until seven years ago, Stonewall was the only LGBT-related site on the National Register and today there are still only nineteen LGBT sites listed out of more than 90,000. Local landmark designations remain rare and the interpretation of house museums and other sites with LGBT significance is still often fraught with controversy.
The New York City LGBT Historic Sites Project (www.nyclgbtsites.org) was founded in 2015 by three preservation professionals who have been working to change this dynamic for many years and increase LGBT representation. The Sites Project is a pioneering cultural heritage initiative that is comprehensively identifying and interpreting extant places connected to LGBT history and culture in New York City. Through an interactive website, historical documentation, educational and community outreach, and a robust social media presence, our aim is making an invisible history visible and bringing to the fore the contributions that LGBT people have made to local and national history and culture. This is also a social justice initiative since in spite of the enormous advances of LGBT rights over the last fifty years, there are still threats and there is limited awareness about LGBT history by the community and by the general public.
This lack of knowledge, and threats against LGBT rights, makes the need to document and recognize significant sites more important. Diversity and inclusion within the LGBT community are also of paramount important to us. Thus, we have identified and interpreted new narratives through sites associated with lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, senior citizens, youth, and other communities.
We have identified over 350 sites associated with LGBT history, with over 150 included on our website so far. Each entry includes detailed and well-sourced text, supplemented with photos, videos, interviews, and other material. An example of a newly identified site is the former Starlite Bar in Brooklyn, known as “the oldest Black-owned, Non-Discriminating Club” in the city. We are also reinterpreting well-known sites, such as the Staten Island home of photographer Alice Austin, recognizing her long-term relationship with Gertrude Tate. A revised National Register nomination was submitted for the Austin House; we are now responsible for five of the nineteen LGBT-related sites now on the National Register, with two more listings pending.
The proposed APT presentation will detail the Sites Project’s innovative work combining traditional research with sophisticated mapping and the latest in social media tools to expand LGBT inclusion within preservation and increase the canon to include this underrepresented community in all of its diversity.