The Pittsburgh Queer History Project (PQHP) is an oral history and media archive, focusing on LGBT nightlife in Pittsburgh, PA from 1960 to 1990. Founded by Harrison Apple in 2012, the project began as an investigation of gay-owned-and-operated after-hours nightclubs. Within these nightclubs, LGBT Pittsburghers used fraternal organization charters as semi-legal shelters and created an after-dark community of labor and love. These emergent communities of membership formed the basis of a self-aware gay and lesbian community which combatted police harassment and the AIDS epidemic while facing the swift economic decline of Pittsburgh. In the years following heavy outmigration from steel cities like Pittsburgh, these histories have become all but forgotten.
Working to preserve and recirculate these histories, the PQHP has collected interviews and artifacts from owners, employees, and customers. With well over 12,000 images in our growing archives, the PQHP seeks to maintain a rich visual record of these communities. Co-Directed by Harrison Apple and Tim Haggerty, Director of the Humanities Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon University, the Project has been able to secure funding for exhibitions and public events in which stories are told, and home archival methods are taught. Our online catalog comes in the wake of the PQHP’s first exhibition: “Lucky After Dark.” Mounted in 2014 at the Future Tenant Gallery in Downtown Pittsburgh, “Lucky After Dark” drew over a thousand visitors to see evidence of their own history in formation. Their responses inspired a catalog, extant in print and online, which keeps these materials in circulation and insists on the value of queer histories.
Our online catalog will serve to recirculate materials that had previously been saved by the community in basements, closets, and attics; as well as offering opportunities to contribute to the PQHP whether it be through comments, interviews, or donating materials to the collection.