Central Coast Queer Archive Project tranforms from an oral to a video history

Jun 1, 2021

The Central Coast celebrated virtual Pride from May 16-23 and included some of the stories from Central Coast Queer Archive Project. The Central Coast Queer Archive Project collects oral and video histories of the LGBTQ community to preserve them in a historical archive.

It presents local stories of the formal and informal spaces the LGBTQ community occupied over the past 50 years.

KCBX’s Daytona Clarke spoke with Central Coast Queer Archive Project Co-Director David Weisman about the current state of the project and what people can expect.

Weisamn said the project has transformed from an oral history to a video history. That transition happened because the project received a California Humanities ‘Humanities For All’ quick grant award.

“That’s been a big help in letting us technologically move ahead to make this an internet based project, where we’ll record interviews with senior members of the San Luis LGBTQ community,” Weisman said. “The interviews will be transcribed and then the videos in their entirety will be posted on the website to create this historical database of what the LGBT movement has been like and represented over I would say the past half century.”

Weisman said some of the most recent stories he added to the archives includes a Central Coast Queer Archive Project participant named Carol Leslie.

“She is the owner of the Volumes of Pleasure bookstore in Los Osos,” Weisman said. “She tells in a rather heartwarming fashion about when the AIDS quilt came to visit San Luis Obispo in the early 1990s.”

Another interview particpant, Weisman said, is named Kelly Curo and was one of the early presidents of the Gay Student Union at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, going back to the early 1980s.

“He discusses some of the outreach they did at Poly Royal, which was very pioneering as a gay organization back in those days,” Weisman said.

Weisman said one of the stories that attracts a big reaction from audiences isa clip about a restaurant and bar called Breezes.

“The clip is filled with photos from the photo album of the day, and they realized the people in that bar don’t look all that different from them,” Weisman said. “Around the room after the clip ended, the buzz was like ‘Why don’t we have a place like that in San Luis today? Why isn’t there a gay bar in San Luis Obispo?’ And this is where we see, this kind of thing where advocacy, or I should say history and recollection and memory can lead to action and advocacy.”

An important part of this project for Weisman is to build bridges between different generations of queer people.

“We feel that an important part of the project is to create an intergenerational alliance between the youth and the queer elders. Sometimes there’s an electronic divide, but sometimes it's a cultural divide,”Weisman said. “Part of it, too, is that an entire generation of gay men were lost to AIDS between the 1980s and the turn of the century. So there’s missing that ability for mentorship.”

Weisman said he is always looking for more community members to share their own stories and experiences.

“Another important thing is we’re hoping people who tune in are engaged to the point where other senior members of the community might say ‘Hey, I’ve got some stories too, would you like to interview me?’ So in some ways, we’re almost putting this out, too, as an open call to find folks who, after seeing what we’re doing and who we’re working with, might decide to contact us and become one of our future interviews,” Weisman said.

Find more information or get involved at the Central Coast Queer Archive Project website.