What are queer photographs? What do they tell us about the past? How have photographs acted as sites where notions of ‘family’ and ‘queerness’ have been constructed, contested and negotiated?
To explores these questions, the proposed community archive project, The Queer Family Album, will collect and preserve queer ‘family’ photographs and their stories. The project, housed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, will give members of Montreal’s queer community the opportunity to find themselves within the museum world and preserve their past for future generations. It serves to transform the museum into a participatory space.
The projects entails three phrases: collecting, digitizing, and presenting.
Phase 1: Community-based Collecting
For the first phase, the MMFA will partner with queer community groups (such as GRIS Montreal and the Quebec Gay Archives) to collect queer ‘family’ photographs and stories. The museum will host public sessions on site and at local institutions, where museum representatives will assist in collecting the participant's photographs, along with contextual information. The photos will be catalogued, digitized and stored in an archive. An interview related to the photographs will be conducted with the participant shortly thereafter. These interviews will be audio-recorded, transcribed and included in the digital archive. Participants are welcome to submit home videos as well, and to have their interviews recorded on video.
Phase 2: Archiving in a Digital Age
The second phase of the project involves find a digital home for the photographs and accompanying stories. The photographs can be incorporated into the EducArt website, but should also be archived in a separate digital space. While a website might provide a quick solution, I propose the development of a digital archive in the form of a smartphone application. The app would draw on the design of hookup apps like Grindr and OkCupid, which have become central pillars of queer communities in the digital age. Mockups for an independent website and smartphone application are included below.
Phase 3: Showing local histories: photographs, home videos and audiotapes from
Montreal’s queer community
A gallery space in the exhibition will feature an installation showcasing the visual material collected during phase 1. In the centre of the room, visitors will be able to use iPads to navigate through the digital archive and learn about the history of the queerness in Montreal. As visitors scroll through the application, they will have access to all of the photographs, home videos and oral histories collected. Using headphones, visitors will be able to listen to stories from members of Montreal’s queer community first hand. Moreover, the installation will provide the museum with an opportunity to reach even more of the queer community in Montreal and further expand the digital archive.