As it's been mentioned many times in the past year, Newark is changing. It's been on the come-up for a few years, but in the last 2 or 3 trips around the sun, it finally seems to be ... well, coming up. But despite what skeptics may think, Newark has been well ahead of the curve on a number of fronts, and the current exhibit, At Home in Newark: Stories from the Queer Newark Oral History Project, at the main branch of the Newark Public Library offers proof.
What began as a university project to capture the lives and experiences of Newark's LGBTQ+ community in a catalog accessible to students, researchers and the general public interested in bearing witness to this "seen, but unseen" history of Newark residents has grown into something much more. Supported by Rutgers University-Newark, the Queer Newark Oral History Project is a living museum and podium for gender-nonconforming citizens in Brick City to tell their own stories without a proxy or mouthpiece to act as an interpreter.
The exhibit at the library is only on display until March 1, 2018, but the project itself is ongoing. And in the process, students and researchers are engaging in the often under-utilized technique of capturing histories via interviews. In a city that hopes to retain their identity and community values in the wake of gentrification, seeing the LGBTQ+ residents represented in such a deliberate, gracious and insightful way is commendable. Plus, it's an exhibit that combines an alternative take on art and history, and this art nerd and history buff absolutely loves it when that happens. :-)
Here are just a few not-so-great images (read: bad lighting) I snapped from the exhibit during my visit. Click on any of the images below to view a larger version and take a closer look. And don't forget to check out the video at the end! Created by the QNOHP team, it does a great job of showcasing some of the history they've captured so far.
The 1st floor gallery space is decorated with banners detailing some of the activism, history and milestones in Newark's LGBTQ community over the past four decades.
A wall graphic shares some of the more well-known locations of LGBTQ bars and safe spaces in Newark spanning from the 1930s through the 1980s. And there's a small notepad to encourage patrons to add to the list if any location was missing and they'd like to see it added.
Another graphic asks patrons to add a colored dot (supplied) to the gender identity image. It's just one of the ways the exhibit is interactive as well as educational.
Below the gender and orientation identity graphic is a space for patrons to add their preferred term when self-identifying if they don't see it in the graphic above. Post-It notes and pens are supplied to add their input and how they believe they fit in.