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Gerber/Hart opens lesbian history exhibit
by Matt Simonette
2019-10-15

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Gerber/Hart History & Archives launched a new exhibit, "Lavender Women & Killer Dykes: Lesbians, Feminism & Community in Chicago," with a reception and brief talk the evening of Oct. 12.

Curated by Jen Dentel, Isabel Singer, Erik Rebain and David Sievers, the exhibit culls together posters, literature, photos and other artifacts to compile a history of lesbian spaces in Chicago in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

Gerber/Hart Board President John D'Emilio kicked off the event by reiterating his organization's mission not just to have a lending and reading library available to the public but to make its vast collections of historical memorabilia available as well. Mary Ann Johnson, president of Chicago Women's History Center, added that creating such an exhibit involves not just compilation of artifacts, but constantly engaging the tension between what is there and what has, for whatever reasons, been left out.

"We have launched a process that I hope to continue for a long time to come," Johnson said.

Dentel added that she and co-curators Singer and Sievers initially feared that they would not find enough material to substantially fill the exhibit. Ultimately, however, their biggest problem was determining what they had to omit.

"Having this opportunity to speak with people who were part of the movement was so valuable to us," she added.

Sievers reflected that he was moved by how few of the persons invoked in the exhibit seems to by motivated by making money, and were focused on building community instead. Singer said she hoped that their thoughts and intentions would be reflected.

Finn Enke, professor of history and gender and women's studies at University of Wisconsin, spoke at length about conducting historical research on the women's and lesbian movements. They said they were "knocked over" upon previewing the exhibit, which they said is ultimately "creating more history" itself.

"Lavender Women & Killer Dykes" will be open through March 2020.


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