Queer History Now
Archiving Your Life, 2020
Queer History Now is an LGBTQ+ youth group dedicated to responding to queer histories through heritage and creative skills. The collective has brought together young people with different interests and backgrounds who have developed a shared ethos for encountering, producing and challenging queer history.
Archiving Your Life is the project that Queer History Now has engaged with since April 2020. Managed by Photoworks and Queer Heritage South, the LGBTQ+ youth-led programme is dedicated to preserving queer archives and enabling the queer community to take control over the stories and narratives that are told about their lives. The group worked across a series of creative Zoom workshops exploring ways of using photography to engage with archive materials and themes explored. The project has been facilitated by artist Eva Louisa Jonas and Ricardo Reverón Blanco of Photoworks with guest arts & heritage professionals, including E.J Scott curator of Museum of Transology and Jamie Brett from Youth Club Archive.
About the Tommy and Betty archive
Queer History Now took interest in the Tommy & Betty archive (partly on show at Queer the Pier, Brighton Museum & Art Galleries) as it documented the lives of two women who’s everyday livelihood served as a catalyst for discussion. These included conversations about revisioning history through a queer/ordinary/ethical lens.
The first photo of Tommy and Betty together is c1947, suggesting they knew each other for more than fifty years. Their collection of personal memorabilia was found in a house clearance in Worthing in 2017. It includes a lifetime of photo albums. Many photos, including one marching by the Palace Pier on Remembrance Day, depict the women in uniform. They served in the Sussex Royal Battalion Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC). Their collection is a testimony for ordinary lives being part of history, ensuring that the everyday is as valuable as the extraordinary lives of those talked about in Museums. We can relate to Tommy and Betty as they document their everyday activities with friends.
The project partners would like to thank the participants for all their amazing work, the Queer the Pier team and Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton & Hove for access to the Tommy & Betty collection, and the National Lottery Heritage fund (through Queer History South) for their support of this project.