By Alison Roth
This week, ProQuest launched the new LGBT Magazine Archive, a database that includes the backfiles of 26 of the most influential, longest-running magazines on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and related issues. Their coverage ranges from the 1950s through to 2015, with each searchable issue scanned from cover to cover in full color. All content will be fully loaded by 2019.
Chris Cotton, Senior Product Manager at ProQuest, talks about the creation of this unique and long-requested collection.
Where did your team come up with the idea for an LGBT Magazine Archive?
Chris Cotton: We’ve been very conscious for a long time of a strong and growing demand for primary sources in sexual diversity studies. It’s something librarians and researchers communicate to us regularly. We’ve also seen an increase in the volume of research on these topics in recent years. Developing a resource in this area was an easy decision, but it was crucial to identify the right content and to offer complementary material that builds on other ProQuest collections in LGBT and gender studies, such as LGBT Thought and Culture and GenderWatch.
There is particular interest in magazines – they’re unique records of LGBT history and culture and were, for a long time, a vital source of identification for many individuals. We already have some magazines covering LGBT topics in GenderWatch, but without deep backfile coverage; the increasing demand made it clear that we needed to create a robust archive dedicated solely to LGBT magazines.
How did you go through the process of selecting publications and curating the archive?
CC: When we looked at other digital resources in this area, it became apparent that there was a glaring lack of archival runs of major, long-running, influential magazines. There’s coverage of short-lived amateur zines and newsletters, but the archives of the core of long-established, weightier magazines had not previously been digitized, so these quickly became our priority.
To select the specific publications, we relied heavily on feedback from scholars in this field, as well as consulting bibliographies and analyzing which publications had been used most frequently in scholarly research. We put many months of work into tracking down the original print sources and digitizing them, having first completed the lengthy and complicated process of licensing the content from the copyright holders. Even the big-name LGBT publications weren’t traditionally collected in print by libraries.
What are some of the highlights of the LGBT Magazine Archive?
CC: The Advocate is absolutely critical – it’s the oldest still-published U.S. LGBT serial (and one of the highest circulating), dating back to 1967. LGBT Magazine Archive is the only place you can find the digital backfile. Because The Advocate is exceptional in pre-dating the 1969 Stonewall riots, it spans the history of the gay liberation movement. Among other major U.S. titles is Transgender Tapestry, the most widely circulated serial ever devoted to transgender issues, which was published for three decades.
We also have several leading publications from the U.K., including Gay Times, its predecessor, Gay News, and The Pink Paper. Gay Times remains the most-read gay magazine in the U.K. while Gay News was launched in 1972 and is of great historical value. The Pink Paper was the only weekly newspaper devoted to gay and lesbian interests when it was founded and became a highly important campaigning vehicle.
The Archive is also supplemented by some more specialist titles (such as Albatross, a radical lesbian feminist magazine, and Just for Us, aimed at children and young adults with LGBT+ parents). Because these titles have typically been even more rare and hard to access, making them more readily available will really expand the range of sources and perspectives available to researchers.
When reading these magazines, you get a real sense that they were the go-to forum for sharing ideas and experiences in the pre-internet age. The titles are hugely valuable individually, but collectively they make for a truly indispensable resource.
What are the benefits of searching the LGBT Magazine Archive versus trying to find these publications individually?
CC: There are quite a few. Probably the biggest one is that – as I said earlier – the unified backfile runs for most of them don’t exist anywhere else! We’ve obtained copies from multiple print sources to compile this archival coverage, and we digitized them all at ProQuest. Even if you tried to consult print or microfilm sources, if they existed, they would usually be patchy and cumbersome to use. In contrast, researchers using LGBT Magazine Archive can, in a matter of seconds, identify the instances of a search term across many publications and hundreds of thousands of pages.
Researchers also get the benefit of cross-searching these magazines not only with each other, but with all their institution’s other resources on the ProQuest platform. This opens up the ability to explore varying perspectives on a single issue. It really helps conceptualize these topics and goes a long way toward putting today’s LGBT issues into greater context.
Alison Roth is the lead business blogger at ProQuest. A former journalist, she enjoys AP style, direct quotes and a good Oxford Comma debate. She was inspired to become a writer many years ago by Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, and is still influenced by his style to this day. You can follow Alison on Instagram at @five_speed