Southern Appalachian Digital Collections

Western Carolina University (20) View all

Western Carolina University

LGBTQ Archive of Jackson County


WCU LGBTQ Archive partner with UNC-Asheville and the non-profit organization Blue Ridge Pride to create a regional archive of LGBTQ oral histories and ephemera.

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The Western Carolina University LGBTQ Archive: Jackson County Collection was established in Fall 2019 with the collection of Western North Carolina drag performer oral narratives by Sarah Steiner, head of research and instruction services and associate professor, Hunter Library. In Spring 2019, Dr. Travis A. Rountree, assistant professor of English and Dr. Erin Callahan, associate professor of English, joined Steiner in the writing of a successful Provost Grant that has allowed them to expand the archive with the help of WCU undergraduate students. As of November 2020, students in Dr. Rountree‘s Writing and Critical Theory (ENGL 202) courses have collected over 15 oral narratives, and many other WCU students, faculty, staff, and community members have volunteered to be included in the archive. Steiner, along with student research assistant, Sarah DeArmon, a Sociology and International Studies double major, have archived and transcribed these histories plus other local artifacts such as articles from The Western Carolinian, drag show flyers, and other ephemera, all of which will be included in the digital archive hosted by Hunter Library. Dr. Callahan will work to transcribe and analyze many of the spoken artifacts in order to explore the sociolinguistic characteristics of queer Appalachian speech to begin the process of providing scholarly context for the archive.


In October 2020, the WCU LGBTQ archive developed a cross-institutional collaboration with the Western North Carolina LGBTQIA+ Archive at UNC-Asheville in an effort to grow the diversity and range of LGBTQIA+ stories and to expand the scope of the unified collections as a regional consortium started in January 2019, under the direction of Dr. Amanda Wray at UNC Asheville and with the financial support of and partnership with Blue Ridge Pride and YMCA. To date, the WNC LGBTQIA+ has secured 47 oral history interviews, processed over 20 boxes of physical archival materials, trained over 30 community volunteers in oral history methodology, worked with 12+ undergraduate research interns in digital archiving and/or oral history data collection, created a scavenger hunt to teach LGBTQ+ history of downtown Asheville, and hosted webinars to help pride organizations in other Southern contexts to build similar archives.


This collaboration between WCU and UNC-A will involve undergraduate and graduate students at both institutions and various community stakeholders, including Blue Ridge Pride, YMCA, oral history narrators, and at-large members of the LGBTQIA community region-wide. Using the oral histories and physical artifacts collected in the WCU LGBTQ Archive: Jackson County Collection, the Western North Carolina LGBTQIA+ Archive, Blue Ridge Pride will launch a Virtual Pride Center early 2021 with the intention of drawing more users to the archive and helping engage the public more critically and meaningfully with LGBTQIA+ lives.


For more information about the Western Carolina University LGBTQ Archive: Jackson County Collection or to get involved with this project, please contact Sarah Steiner at


For further information about the Western North Carolina LGBTQIA+ archive contact