Tag Archives: Glenbow

The Archives – We’ve got stuff!

For the past two years the Calgary Gay History Project has been dutifully collecting donations from community members to build a local gay history archive. The collection is diverse: we have publications, books, organization documents, news clipping, audio tapes, video tapes, clothing, buttons and other ephemera that represents the history of the LGBTQ community in Calgary.

We recently over two Sunday’s catalogued all of the donations to date.  “Archive blitz days” we called them, and it proved to be a huge but rewarding task. Now we have a simple but searchable database, which already has proved helpful in solving research queries related to our history.

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Calgary Gay History Project’s Rosman Valencia and Jonathan Brower finished cataloguing the archive recently.

The long-term home for the archives, will be in one of our Calgary collecting institutions, such as the Glenbow Museum, the University of Calgary or Mount Royal University – we have been in conversation with all three. However in the meantime, while the gay history book is written, the collection is slowly filling up Kevin Allen’s apartment.

If you have something that might be of interest to the Calgary Gay History Archive, please contact us. We will take just about everything as well as pick it up from your home.  A few times, we have heard:

“I just threw out those old things a few months ago, because I did not think anyone would want them…”

This brings tears to our eyes!

If you are saving treasures you are not ready to donate, that is fine too.  Let us know about them, and we will keep you apprised of where the gay history archive collection ends up. You may want to contribute to the archive later down the road or contribute to it as part of your estate planning.

The archive is a treasure which will become even more valuable to historians in the decades to come.  Please consider donating to it.



The Effect of AIDS on Calgary

AIDS created both personal and political crises in Canada and our gay communities were irrevocably changed.  Now in hindsight we are beginning to see the shape of those changes and understand their impact.  For one, it politicized the gay community dramatically – the stakes could not be higher – people were dying in a backdrop of little information and government action. For two, it brought the community closer together after years of division from fractious identity politics (read this interesting article about survivors of the AIDS crisis and the role of lesbians).  For three, the public at large could no longer ignore or fail to notice the queers amongst them.

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AIDS was first reported in Alberta in 1983: the first death a bisexual Calgary man in early June.  On June 30th, Alberta was the second province in Canada to declare AIDS a notifiable disease.  Grassroots organizing by Calgary’s gay community began almost immediately.  By late July, the city’s gay club owners raised and donated $10,000, to the University of Calgary to become the foundation for an AIDS research and education fund.

One year later (1984) the number of confirmed AIDS cases in Alberta had grown to six with only two men still alive – and every one was a gay or bisexual man.  For ten years the stats kept getting darker and bleaker until newly diagnosed cases peaked in 1994 at 134.  From then onwards, sex education and cocktail drug therapies started bringing the numbers and the mortality down. Calgary was the hardest hit city in the province.

The first meetings for what was to become AIDS Calgary began in September 1985.  Doug Young, a gay activist and community organizer collected papers from those early meetings, which can be found at the Glenbow Archives.  Sadly, he himself died of AIDS in 1994.

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Nationally, the recently launched AIDS Activist History Project is working to document Canadian AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s.  The Calgary Gay History Project will work collaboratively with the project to preserve our local stories.  As always, if you do have something to share, please contact us: here.


Walk, Don’t Run, This Saturday!

The Calgary Gay History Project is honoured to participate in Historic Calgary Week 2014, a program of the Chinook Country Historical Society.  We are reprising the very popular Beltline Gay History Walk that happened during last year’s Pride Week celebrations.

The event “runs” from 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Saturday, July 26th and begins and ends at CommunityWise (formerly known as the Old Y) at 223 12 Ave. SW.  We will be meeting outside the building near the front steps.  As an aside, those steps and porch were recently renovated and have been nominated for the Calgary Heritage Authority’s Lion Awards on July 31st (also an event in Historic Calgary Week).

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

In a happy coincidence, I was at the Glenbow Museum Archives today, going through gay activist Doug Young’s personal records and came across his hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s.  Interestingly, there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.

Looking forward to seeing you at the walk!