As the GLBT Historical Society’s archives reopen, we’re looking back on the things that kept us going through a lonely year. One of them was the National Archives’ monthly Twitter collaboration, #ArchivesHashtagParty.
Each month, archivists all over the country post historical items with the same theme—ranging from insects (#ArchivesBugs) to cakes (#ArchivesBakeOff), elections (#ArchivesGetsTheVote) to educators of color (#ArchivesBlackEducation). The National Archives selects each theme two weeks in advance, setting off a scavenger hunt for just the right item in each archivist’s collection.
The beauty of #ArchivesHashtagParty is that it encourages us to dig deep. You might not think of the society as a repository of signatures, maps or vehicles, but we’ve found items for each theme, including a map of an early Pride parade route; a handmade knit rug depicting a leatherman; and a photo of two participants in the Mint tricycle race, with their biplane-themed bike, the “Lavender Baron.” The party lets us go beyond the obvious, showing off corners of LGBTQ life that are accidentally illuminated by the need to show Twitter a picture of a bug (in this case, the fist-and-butterfly logo of the 1972 Pride booklet).
It also brings us together. Archiving is isolating work at the best of times; many archivists work completely alone. The Hashtag Party turns archiving from a monologue to a dialogue, connecting us with strangers around the world who are curious to see unexpected fragments of the past.
You can join in the party by following our Twitter account, where we post these and other archival finds throughout the month. And if you’re not on that platform, fear not: we adapt each hashtag entry for Facebook and Instagram.