There are voices in the Archives—those of Mount Holyoke’s many and varied community members captured in boxes and folders over the decades. Last summer, Jennie Ochterski ’15 worked in Archives and Special Collections and was surprised to come upon stories of the College’s queer history that were new to her.
“I thought it odd that I’d never heard these stories, since I’m involved with a queer group [Femmepowered] on campus,” she says. Ochterski dug deeper into the material, and the result is a new exhibition, Persistence and Existence: LGB Organizations at Mount Holyoke College Through History. It will be on view in Dwight Hall through April 3.
Four cases of archival materials bring to light the numerous histories of queer culture on campus and show the changes from the 1970s to 2003 that lesbian, gay, and bisexual student organizations underwent.
Ochterski, a gender studies major, says there is no “T” in the exhibit’s title, and few trans* items in the exhibition, due to the lack of transgender representation in the Archives.
She hopes the exhibit will “increase interest in the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
"Many students at Mount Holyoke may not realize the struggles that queer folks—yes, even in the Valley—face both on campus and off,” she says. “This exhibit is a necessary part of the ongoing dialogue around recognizing the vibrant and diverse communities that comprise MHC’s queer scene."
“It’s crucial to look at our past as an institution—both the great successes and the places where there is still much work to be done,” says Ochterski. “And it’s important to document what’s happening right now on campus to prevent silences in the historical record.”
She notes that archivists are actively collecting material about current LGBT culture at Mount Holyoke.
An opening celebration for the exhibition takes place Friday, February 6 from 4 to 5 pm with a tour by Ochterski.