One Saturday morning in November 2000, a small but enthusiastic group shared their interest in collecting and preserving the history of Washington's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) communities. They formed the Rainbow History Project, and the rest, as they say, is history. Six years later, the Rainbow History Project has built an impressive collection of taped oral histories, personal papers, and memorabilia. With an interest in building relationships with Washington's cultural heritage organizations, the organization joined Cultural Tourism DC.
"Our first ongoing project was to record on audiotape the personal memories of our community," says Mark Meinke, one of the Rainbow History Project's co-founders. "The tapes are like a slice of life, reflecting the breadth and diversity of GLBT experiences. They tell us how people got here and how they found others like themselves." 102 oral histories have been collected to date. According to Meinke, the Rainbow History Project has also created an extensive timeline, which carefully tracks the events and organizations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered history. In addition, the Places & Spaces project identified almost 400 clubs, bars, community centers, and other social GLBT spaces in metropolitan DC from 1920 to 2001.
As part of its mission to collect, preserve, and promote an active knowledge of the history, arts, and culture relevant to sexually diverse communities in metropolitan Washington, DC, The Rainbow History Project‘s website, www.rainbowhistory.org, serves as a virtual archive for exhibiting, distributing, and storing materials in its collection. Mark Meinke says, "We believe that the more widely these materials are seen, the more likely they are to survive the vicissitudes of time and politics." The Rainbow History Project works with The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and the Washingtoniana Division of the District of Columbia Public Library to house collections and donated materials.
The Rainbow History Project welcomes any member of the community who wishes to support us as a member or volunteer. The Rainbow History Project is guided by an Advisory Board of community members, archivists, and historians who serve also as important resources reinforcing professional standards and guiding our research and presentations.