American Library Association Conference poster
The University of Southern Maine’s Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer + Collection preserves the history of LGBTQ+ communities in Maine. The collection contains books, personal papers, photographs, and newspapers documenting the LGBTQ+ activism from 1970s to 1990s.
While three research publications have some out of the collection (one article and two thesis), no overall history about Maine’s LGBTQ+ community has been written. As a result many Mainer’s, queer and straight, know very little of the history. The instruction and outreach librarian and the staff of USM’s Special Collections wanted an opportunity to raise awareness and funds for the collection. They undertook the creation of a walking tour of downtown Portland Maine. They had seen this done to great effect by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston. While the Mount Auburn tour focused on important queer people of Boston buried in Mount Auburn, the team decided to focus on the current nostalgia and debate within the LGBTQ+ community over the disappearing bar scene as the theme of the tour. The majority of the research was done remotely thanks to Special Collections strong efforts to digitize the major Maine LGBTQ+ news publications, that started in 1974 and run until the early 2000s, oral histories, and photos. They choose this route due to COVID and because they wanted anyone going on the tour to be able to find the sources themselves online. Finding Aids of non digitized collections were consulted but didn’t yield much in the way of information on the bars.
Over the course of the spring of 2021 the instruction and outreach librarian researched the bar scene of Portland Maine. No research had been done on this topic so there was no secondary literature on the topic beside a dissertation on the last lesbian bar in Portland, Sisters. By sifting though newspapers and oral histories they were able to confirm the first bar, Roland’s Tavern in 1968, and establish the names and general timelines of a surprisingly large number of queer bars in Portland. The majority of their research relied on the following digitized portions of the LGBTQ+ collection:
MacGregor, Megan, "Queer History in the Streets: A Walking Tour of Portland, Maine" (2022). Faculty and Staff Scholarship. 18.
Cultural History Commons, History of Gender Commons, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Commons, Oral History Commons, Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Commons, Other History Commons, Social History Commons, United States History Commons, Women's History Commons