The United States Library of Congress has selected the pridenz.com website for preservation in the Library of Congress Web Archive.
“It’s wonderful to have such a prestigious international library recognise the significance of LGBTI rainbow experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand” says PrideNZ.com founder Gareth Watkins. “It is a richly deserved tribute to the hundreds of community members that have freely shared their experiences with the world.”
The Library of Congress preserves internationally important cultural artefacts and provides enduring access to them. In correspondence to PrideNZ it said, “We consider your website to be an important part of this collection and the historical record.”
“I was taken completely by surprise when we received the notification,” said Watkins. “This is the first time a collecting institution has approached PrideNZ to archive its content. It is notable and perhaps sadly telling that the request has actually come from outside of Aotearoa.”
“As the audio collection has grown to over nine hundred recordings, the thought of losing our history through technological failures has weighed heavily on the PrideNZ team. Having a large, well-resourced institution like the Library of Congress preserving a copy of these voices increases the likelihood that our stories will survive to be heard by future generations.”
While the library will enable people to access the audio content that is already publicly accessible, it does not alter ownership or other rights relating to the material, “If people want to reproduce the content in the future, they will still need to seek permission” says Watkins.
The current PrideNZ.com website has been online since 2010. But earlier incarnations of the site – pre-Internet audio streaming – date back to the 1990s. “Streaming audio and video content weren’t easily achievable back in the 1990s. I used to post CDs of the audio recordings around the world. You were never quite sure if they ever made it to their destination.”
But many did. Last year PrideNZ received a message, twenty years on, from a listener in Arkansas, USA: “I received the CDs from you during a very trying time in my life. I was wrestling to fit into the life of a gay man in the American South. Life had been a roller coaster for me for years – from bullying in high school to death threats to being thrown out of my home by my family and a loss of almost all of my friends to an attempt at suicide. My life was just starting to get on track when I received the CDs from you. I would listen to them on repeat during my daily commute. The voices calmed me and made me feel like part of a larger community, albeit a community I didn’t have access to in Arkansas. I laughed with them and I cried with them. They allowed me to stay in touch with a core part of me that I didn’t want to deny anymore. So I guess what I am saying is thank you. I know these audio files were probably just a small moment in your life, but for me, they were a beacon of hope.”
Watkins reflects, “To me, the inclusion of PrideNZ.com content in the Library of Congress archive is also a beacon of hope. The documented voices and experiences are not only a taonga (treasure) now, but will become a touchstone for generations to come, creating a pathway for future LGBTI rainbow people to hear who we were, how we spoke and what our dreams and aspirations were.”