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PPL Announces RI LGBTQ+ Community Archive

Press Release from Providence Public Library:

The archive is home for the histories of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ+ communities where all can learn, reflect, and engage

RI LGBTQ+ Community Archive at Providence Public Library (PPL) is the first public community archives initiative to collect and provide access to the stories, and social, cultural and political history of LGBTQ+ people in Rhode Island. The archive is focused on developing collections and resources that reflect the full range of the lived experiences of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ+ communities, including those who have been historically marginalized in mainstream LGBTQ+ movements.

Since 2019, PPL has been guided in this work by a Community Advisory Board that is composed of members from within the Rhode Island LGBTQ+ community and PPL Collections staff who provide guidance in crucial decision-making on issues related to collecting, access and outreach. Initial donations to the archive include a full run of Options Magazine from 1982 to the present, 24 oral history interviews, as well as materials related to the marriage equality movement in Rhode Island. PPL is excited to announce the donation of two new collections in spring 2021, including the AIDS Project RI Archives (APRI) and the Kim Deacon Collection. “In celebration of Pride Month and as we recognize 40 years that our community has been living with the devastation of AIDS, PPL is very proud to formally announce the RI LGBTQ+ Community Archive at Providence Public Library. Through our Special Collections at PPL, we strive to collect, archive, and share the important stories and histories of people and groups within our community that may not be represented elsewhere. This new archive is certainly an example of this and we are truly appreciative of the work of our Community Advisory Board and of those who have helped us make this Archive a reality with these early donations,” remarked PPL Executive Director, Jack Martin.

“AIDS Project Rhode Island is honored to donate historical materials to PPL and its brand-new RI LGBTQ+ Archive,” notes APRI Director, Mikel Wadewitz.

“The history of AIDS activism is deeply entwined with the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. As we approach June 5th — the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases of what would come to be known as AIDS — the timing of this donation could not be more instructional. The HIV epidemic continues to affect millions of lives every year around the world. Although we have made great medical strides that can keep people alive, we continue to fight discrimination, stigma, and advocate for full and equitable access to support services that can truly transform attitudes and lives.

“This donation of APRI materials to PPL showcases and honors the grassroots efforts made by many Rhode Islanders beginning in the early 1980s to care for people in their communities dying from AIDS, to fight for humane treatment of people living with HIV, and to ensure that marginalized and underserved communities could not just survive but thrive. We’re indebted to all of the individuals who blazed these trails and those we have lost these last 40 years. We are grateful to PPL for providing a safe home for some of their stories.”

“Facilitating the creation of this community archive project has been a joyful experience,” said Kate Wells, Curator of Rhode Island Collections at PPL. “We were aware of the gap in materials documenting Rhode Island’s queer history in libraries and archives and we realized that as a special collection in a public library we have a unique set of skills and resources to offer to the community to help tell their own stories. In addition to the APRI Archives, we have recently received a donation from Kim Deacon, owner of the Kings & Queens Bar in Woonsocket from 1979-2002. This collection documents the bar as more than just a business, but also as the hub of social and cultural opportunities for the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years. There are so many stories to be told and PPL is excited to support that endeavor.”

RI LGBTQ+ Community Archive encourages individuals and community organizations to submit stories, records, and ephemera to help grow the collection. PPL is proud to support the work of community partners and organizations via access to the collection and upcoming public programs.

About Providence Public Library PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation. The Library also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center holding unique collections and resources.


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