Library exhibit traces the history of gay rights, gay pride at the UO

UO students march in the Stonewall celebration parade in downtown Eugene, 1977.

In celebration of Pride Month, the University of Oregon Libraries has launched a new digital exhibit, “Creating Change: 40 Years of LGBTQ Activism at the University of Oregon.”

Members of the UO’s LGBTQ community have long been innovative and pioneering agents of change. In 1969 — the same year as the Stonewall Riots in New York — UO students founded the Gay People’s Alliance. It was the first organization for homosexuals at a West Coast university and one of few such organizations to be recognized at that time as an “official” student group and receive university funding.

From this starting point, “Creating Change” traces the history of LGBTQ struggle for inclusivity, equity, and community up to the present day.

The exhibit includes an annotated timeline, archival document scans, historical newspaper articles, photographs and more. Included are profiles of LGBTQ campus leaders Randy Shilts, Lynn Pinckney and David Funk, and  exhibits on traditions and special events like Blue Jeans Day and Campus Coming Out Day.

Exhibit curator Linda Long, manuscripts librarian with the UO Libraries, writes: “...This exhibit will provide the viewer with a heightened awareness of the richness of LGBT life on the UO campus and the significance of the groundbreaking advances made to improve the campus climate for LGBT students, faculty, and staff.”

“Given the recent tragedy in Orlando,” Dean of Libraries Adriene Lim said, “this timely reminder of the LGBTQ’s complex history of shared experiences, community and perseverance in the face of extreme opposition and long odds is important, meaningful. There are many LGBTQ people in our midst, including students, faculty and staff, who may feel especially sad and vulnerable right now. I hope this exhibit reaffirms in some small way how much the UO Libraries appreciates their voices and their lives in this time of both struggle and achievements.” ​

The original, analog “Creating Change” exhibit was organized in 2012 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Standing Committee for LGBT Concerns at the UO. It was displayed at Eugene Airport.

Since the creation of the Campus Climate Index in 2001, the UO has been consistently rated among the top 25 most LGBT-friendly college campuses in the nation. More recently, it was recognized as one of the top 10 trans-friendly colleges and universities.

By Jason Stone, UO Libraries