Drawing a Map to LGBT History

A spiffy new enterprise is making use of technology and research to tell tales of the past. It’s an online map that shows you exactly where — to the pinpoint — LGBT history happened in St. Louis.

Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis is an interactive digital history project that combines the mapping and research efforts of Washington University’s Center for the Humanities project The Divided City with research and collected history by the State Historical Society of Missouri and the St. Louis LGBT History Project, as part of a Mellon Foundation grant.

“We were thrilled to be asked to be a part of it,” says Steven Louis Brawley, who has been curating the past through the History Project for many years.

“It’s not just about bars,” he says. “It’s really deep. [Locations] could be health related, social, political, you name it. It’s a very thorough dive into where the LGBT community was living and getting any kind of service or any kind of social activity.”

The map currently has 700 pins for locations identified as having LGBT significance, from the post-war 1940s through the AIDS era 1990s. A pin may pull up a description, a photo, an essay. The hope, Brawley says, is that people will look at it and fill in any gaps.

“It’s a living, breathing document,” says Brawley.

And on Wednesday, the map goes live at a launch party at the Missouri History Museum.

Wednesday’s event at the History Museum brings together three crucial figures from the city’s LGBT past: activist Margaret “Flowing” Johnson, blues singer Sherie White, and HIV educator Erise Williams. As each one speaks, map entries related to their stories will be displayed.

“The goal Wednesday is to bring the map alive,” says Brawley.

Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis. Missouri History Museum, Forest Park. Doors at 6:30 p.m., program at 7 p.m. Reception to follow. Free.



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