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Stonewall National Museum & Archives Gets Money To Go Digital

Stonewall Museum
Caitie Switalski
/
WLRN
In 2018, pre-pandemic, the museum hosted an exhibit about Nazi persecution of homosexuals during WWII at its old location in Wilton Manors. Now the museum and archives are consolidated at the ArtServe building in Fort Lauderdale.

The museum received a grant of $50,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to begin digitizing its archives.

The Stonewall National Museum & Archives is digitizing the LGBTQ history it's been collecting for nearly 50 years — a dream that started before the pandemic but is even more urgent now.

The Fort Lauderdale museum received a $50,000 dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to begin the process to put its archives online.

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In total, the museum has about six million pages of documents in its archives.

"What that will mean is those documents that the paper is truly deteriorating on them will be preserved in digital form, and then also we'll be able to make the digital version of these available through our website," said Hunter O'Hanian, the executive director of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives. "So anybody from around the country will be able to search what it is that we have in our archives."

The museum is prioritizing things like early film and audio recordings, public meeting minutes as well as LGBTQ periodicals from South Florida.

"We noticed that a lot — and we weren't surprised — but a lot of the South Florida publications have not been digitized as of yet, and so that will be a high priority for us," O'Hanian said.

He expects it will take two years to finish the project.

"To be able to digitize the what we have here while COVID is going on and in the future is is very important," O'Hanian said. "...because the in-person visitations were lower, that allowed us to actually look and look and fulfill projects that we were looking to do for a while."

With some of the grant money, Stonewall will hire a digital consulting firm to help map a plan for next steps, as well as hire a digital manager.

In the meantime, the museum is continuing to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been offering access to exhibits in-person, or in a virtual tour format.

"We have two shows up right now, they'll be up for a few more weeks," O'Hanian said. "One is called 'Life Letters,' which are LGBTQ expressions of love...those are from our archives, original letters from people like Tennessee Williams or people incarcerated in Florida prisons. And then the other exhibition that we write now is called 'Queers at Home,' and that looks at how LGBTQ family life has evolved."