Edmonton Queer History Project launches history website, walking tours and podcast

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The Edmonton Queer History Project has launched new tools to help shine a light on the city’s rich LGBTQ histories, including a websitea downtown map, walking tours and a podcast.

The initiatives lasted two years.

Japkaran Saroya, a member of the project who worked on Pride’s historical timeline, told CBC Edmonton AM On Tuesday, digging into the past was an eye-opening experience.

“It was so interesting to see so many stories that I had never heard of or so many movements that helped a lot of queer people achieve equality in Edmonton,” Saroya said.

6:08Edmonton Queer History Project puts LGBTQ2S+ stories in the spotlight

A new initiative puts LGBTQ2S+ stories in the spotlight. Find out all about the Edmonton Queer History Project, which officially launches today. Kristopher Wells is one of the project leaders and Canada Research Chair in Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University. Japkaran Saroya is a member of the project team and a student at MacEwan. 6:08

The Downtown Queer History Map features 27 sites of historical significance to Edmonton’s LGBTQ community, including Club 70, Edmonton’s first official gay bar; Pisces Health Spa, a bathhouse raided by police in 1981, resulting in the indictment of 56 men; and Secrets, a bar for Edmonton’s lesbian community that opened in the late 1990s.

The podcast, From Here To Queer, is hosted by Darrin Hagen from Edmonton. The first episode, featuring longtime activist and former city councilor Michael Phair, is already available on the website.

Learning more about the past struggles that paved the way for today’s generation of young gay men, like him, is essential, Saroya said.

“I think it’s so important for people to remember the different moments in time that led to being able to live so freely and expressively today,” he said.

A map of sites of historical significance to the city’s queer community. The map is on a website launched Wednesday by the Edmonton Queer History Project. (Edmonton Queer History Project website)

This part of history is not taught in schools, said project leader Kristopher Wells.

“Part of this project is to honor those brave individuals and groups who came together to build the city we know and love today,” Wells said.

The job involved reaching out to people “to open their closets, so to speak, and share with us elements of Edmonton’s queer history,” he said.

The History Project was first launched in 2015 with an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Edmonton’s Pride Festival.

After years of research, they decided to put all the information together in a publicly accessible way.

Future projects include installing queer heritage signs at 27 locations in Edmonton, adding more sites to the map and developing a small book showcasing the people, places and times that shaped the city’s queer history.

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