Rauner Library will add SpeakOut collection in 2019

by Charles Chen | 1/19/18 2:30am

SpeakOut, an oral history project on past LGBTQIA+ students at the College, will be added to Rauner Library’s Special Collections in early 2019. The project was announced last November and is a collaboration between the library, the history department and the Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni/ae Association.

The new project is dedicated to recording and preserving the experiences of LGBTQIA+ alumni while they were at the College. Starting this upcoming spring, student volunteers will be trained to conduct interviews with LGBTQIA+ alumni; the recordings of these interviews will become a part of Rauner’s oral history program.

“We have an opportunity to focus on communities and stories in the history of Dartmouth that might not have been well-documented in the past,” said Caitlin Birch, the digital collections and oral history archivist at Rauner who oversees the oral history program. “It is an opportunity to focus on voices that haven’t been heard — stories that haven’t been told.”

Over the next three years, Birch said she plans on training 30 students who she hopes will go on to conduct around 150 interviews by the conclusion of the project. Currently, the project has funding for the next three years, according to Birch.

SpeakOut is the brainchild of DGALA president Brendan Connell Jr. ’87, the managing director and counsel for administration at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Connell has been working for the past several years with the College to make SpeakOut a reality.

Connell said he was first inspired to pursue SpeakOut after several DGALA members who graduated in 1950 passed away.

“It made me realize what a shame it was that we didn’t have a record of their experiences on campus,” he said.

Connell decided to pursue an oral project when he came upon the Dartmouth Vietnam Project, another one of Rauner’s oral history projects that documented experiences of the College’s community members during the Vietnam era. In addition to providing a record of the experiences of LGBTQIA+ alumni, telling their stories will provide closure for many whose experience at Dartmouth may have been far from idyllic, he said.

“[The program] gives the subjects the opportunity to tell their story in their own words, and you don’t get that with other forms of record keeping,” Birch said.

The program will also connect current students with alumni, giving students a chance to learn history firsthand and make a connection with the College’s past.

“It struck me, talking to students, that many did not know important parts of the [LGBTQIA+] community’s history in Hanover,” Connell said.

The interviews will also be available for student research.

Hugh Mac Neill ’20 is the lead undergraduate interviewer for the program.

“I’m really interested in creating an intergenerational connection between the queer community here now and the queer community from 20, 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “I think forming meaningful connections with alumni who have important lessons and messages can be really valuable for students on campus.”

SpeakOut is an official part of the College’s 250th Anniversary celebration — a small symbol, but a symbol nevertheless, of how the College has come to accept minorities, Birch said.

“It’s really important that the College includes the full diversity of its community in its celebrations,” Birch said. “It communicates that we are a place for everyone, that the future of Dartmouth is an inclusive future.”

SpeakOut’s first interviews are slated to become publicly available in January 2019.