‘Out in the Archives’: LGBTQ+ at Union through the decades

Publication Date

“This Group Isn’t Just For Queers.” “Gays Active On Campus.” “Homophobes Keep Gays in Closet.”

These are some of the headlines that have graced Union’s student newspaper, Concordiensis, over the years, offering a look at the prevailing sentiment about individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.

The student newspapers are among the artifacts in a new exhibition at Schaffer Library, “Out in the Archives: An Exploration of LGBTQ+ History at Union College.”

curator Gabriella (Gabby) Baratier ’25

Gabriella Baratier ’25

It opens in the Beuth Atrium on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, and highlights the experiences of members of the LGBTQ+ community at Union using material from the College’s Special Collections and Archives.

An opening reception will be held in the library that day at 5 p.m.

“I am passionate about researching the complex and often purposefully buried histories of marginalized groups,” said curator Gabriella (Gabby) Baratier ’25. “This exhibition offers a singular look at some of the students and faculty whose work increased queer solidarity, activism or visibility on campus.”

Baratier added that there’s “something so captivating” about researching LGBTQ+ history using an institutional archives “because queer people have always been here, carving out spaces for themselves, but their experiences and accomplishments have never been categorized in a way that makes them easily recognizable as queer to interested researchers.”

A native of Altamont, N.Y., Baratier has a double major in history and English with a minor in political science.

“Curating this exhibition lines up perfectly with my career goals of becoming a public historian and pursuing museum work,” she said.

She worked on this project over the summer as the Inaugural Ruth Anne Evans Research Fellow. Her advisor was Associate Professor of English Jen Mitchell, an assistant dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

The project began when she and Ryan Cudworth ’25, both Union Pride EBoard members, became interested in learning about queer history at Union.

“The Union College that we arrived at, though still imperfect, has well-developed resources for queer students,” Baratier said, “such as gender-inclusive housing, an LGBTQ+ theme house, the annual Pride Fest, the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, and several clubs and organizations.”

Cudworth assisted with preliminary research last spring, and Baratier took on the project as part of the Summer Research Program.

“I wanted to learn what queer people’s experiences were like before any of these resources were in place,” Baratier said. “What work did queer trailblazers at Union put in so that these resources could be developed?”

Mitchell agreed to supervise the project and pointed the students toward the breadth of Special Collections and Archives resources. The exhibition’s eclectic assortment of materials were pulled from dozens of archival collections spanning several decades that were identified in the 2023 Ruth Anne Evans Research Fellowship.

Evans was Union’s first female faculty member, joining the library with faculty status but not rank. She became the first female full professor in 1973. She retired in 1989 and died in 2001.

Baratier mounted the exhibition with the assistance of Joseph Lueck, Special Collections outreach and reference archivist.

“Gabby did extensive and impressive research as the inaugural research fellow and has set an ambitious example for Evans fellows to come,” Lueck said. “We’re excited to present these findings to the public.”

Added Baratier: “Finding so many disparate materials and recontextualizing them as pieces of queer history was a truly exhilarating process.”

“Out in the Archives” will be on view through Nov. 22.