by Emily Sprewell

The University of West Georgia recently hosted a launch event to celebrate the movement of the Invisible Histories Project (IHP) into Georgia in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Joshua Burford and Maigen Sullivan
Joshua Burford and Maigen Sullivan

The Invisible Histories Project is a nonprofit organization that works to collect and preserve LGBTQ history in the South. IHP’s efforts are funded by the Andrew Mellon grant, a very prestigious grant that comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The project began in Alabama before moving into Mississippi. UWG is the first university in Georgia to partner with IHP.

Maigen Sullivan, co-founder of IHP, expressed her excitement to partner with UWG and start this project in Georgia.

“I think UWG presents a lot of expertise, student resources and knowledge that is going to make it the ideal partner for us as we go into Georgia collecting,” Sullivan said.

The event began with a light reception that gave guests a chance to get to know the founders as well as other individuals who are directly involved in the project.

Dr. Stephanie Chalifoux, assistant professor of history, began the speaking portion of the event by touching on the significance of UWG’s involvement with IHP.

“This project is much bigger than UWG, but it starts here,” Chalifoux said. “We are the base of this project and the foundational point, so in many ways what we do on this project sets the tone for the state of Georgia.”

Dr. Timothy Schroer, professor and chair of the history department, spoke about the value of experiential learning and expressed his excitement for UWG students to be directly involved with historical materials.

“My enthusiasm for this project is really connected to experiential learning,” Schroer said. “This project offers such an incredible opportunity in that regard. I've talked with students who are excited about being among the first people to work seriously with archival materials that no historian has worked with before, accessioning these materials, examining them, and cataloging them. This is a powerful experience for those students.”

Joshua Burford, co-founder of IHP, touched on IHP’s mission and desire to preserve LGBTQ history while bringing people together.

rainbow flag and flower“Every single collection we bring in is a network of people,” Burford said. “It is a grassroots initiative in the Queer South for people bringing resources and individuals together. This room tonight is the perfect representation of the Invisible Histories Project.”

The partnership between IHP and UWG is largely due to the efforts of the history department, the College of Arts and Humanities, and Special Collections. Speakers at the event also made a point to acknowledge the UWG students who have worked directly with the historical collections.

Dr. Pauline Gagnon, professor of theatre and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, addressed the crowd and expressed her admiration for the history department.

“I really enjoy getting to brag about the history department--they have incredibly high standards and set the bar for all of us in all the other departments,” she said. “Their quest for truth and fact will ultimately save the world.”

For more information, please visit The Invisible Histories Project.

Photography by Steven Broome

Posted on March 16, 2020