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The History Project

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The History Project
The History Project Logo.jpg
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Location29 Stanhope Street, Boston, Massachusetts, 02116
Coordinates42°20′55″N 71°04′23″W / 42.348614°N 71.073042°W / 42.348614; -71.073042Coordinates: 42°20′55″N 71°04′23″W / 42.348614°N 71.073042°W / 42.348614; -71.073042
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Other information
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The History Project is a volunteer-run community LGBTQ archives based in Boston, Massachusetts. The History Project maintains over 200 collections from organizations and individuals and more than one million items, making it one of the largest independent LGBTQ archives in the United States.[1]

The Boston Globe has called The History Project "the definitive archival source documenting and preserving [Boston's] gay history." [2]


The History Project’s mission statement reads as follows: “The History Project is the only organization focused exclusively on documenting and preserving the history of New England’s LGBTQ communities and sharing that history with LGBTQ individuals, organizations, allies, and the public.”[1]


On February 12, 1980, a group of gay and lesbian activists and community historians met in the offices of Gay Community News on Bromfield Street to create a community archive, inspired after watching Allan Bérubé present a slideshow on lesbian history.[3] Originally calling themselves the Boston Area Lesbian and Gay History Project,[4] The History Project began to gather archival materials from members of the gay and lesbian community. Assisted by a grant from the city of Boston for its upcoming 350th anniversary, the group created a slideshow of Boston gay and lesbian history. The slideshow was shown at universities and bars across the Northeast.[5]

In 1996, The History Project put on its exhibition of Boston LGBTQ history, Public Faces/Private Lives at the Boston Public Library, drawing in nearly 50,000 visitors.[6] The exhibition served as the basis for the book Improper Bostonians, published by the organization in 1998.[7]

In 2000, The History Project moved its offices to its current location at 29 Stanhope Street in Back Bay.[3] Its new location provided more robust space for the archive’s collections and allowed The History Project to invite the public to use and view its materials.

In January 2020, The History Project appointed Joan Ilacqua as its first executive director.[8]


The scope of The History Project’s collections span from the mid-20th century to present day and are primarily focused on Boston and New England. Items range from the records of early Gay Liberation organizations and photographs of pre-Stonewall Boston to objects such as T-shirts, buttons, and materials documenting the marriage equality movement.[1] These documents and artifacts are processed and made available to researchers by a dedicated group of volunteers from the community who donate hundreds of hours of time annually to the organization.

Collections of note include:

  • David Scondras Papers[9]
  • Charles Shively Papers[10]
  • Robert John Quinn Memorial Books[11]
  • Boston Pride[12]

Outreach and Exhibitions[edit]

Over the years, The History Project has produced a number of public exhibitions, most notably Public Faces/Private Lives at the Boston Public Library in 1996, which was one of the most well-attended events in the library’s history.[6]

The archive also hosts public lectures, movie screenings, walking tours, and its regular Out of the Archives talk series, which it runs both in person and digitally.[1]

The HistoryMaker Awards[edit]

Since 2009, The History Project has presented its annual HistoryMaker Awards to established and emerging leaders in the local LGBTQ community.[13][14]

List of HistoryMaker Award Winners:

  • 2020: Dr. Thea James, Nancy Nangeroni, Dr. Kenneth Mayer, Chastity Bowick and the Massachusetts Transgender Emergency Fund, and Michael Cox
  • 2019: E. Denise Simmons, Reverend Mary Martha Thiel, and Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow
  • 2018: Orlando del Valle and the LGBT Elders of Color
  • 2017: Larry Kessler and Allison Wright
  • 2016: Susan Ryan-Vollmar and Corey Yarbrough
  • 2015: Abe Rybeck, Christine Hurley, Sandi Hammond, and the Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus
  • 2014: Byron Rushing and Omar Thomas
  • 2012: Grace Sterling Stowell and Chris Mason
  • 2011: Mary L. Bonauto and Maggie Cee
  • 2010: The Gay Community News (GCN) Collective and Adaora Asala
  • 2009: Barney Frank and Robbie Samuels

See Also[edit]

Other articles of the topic New England : Connecticut

Other articles of the topic LGBT : Johan Paulik, Judy Garland as gay icon, Drag Race Australia, Truxx Police Raid, Gold star gay, Divas Lip Sync Live, Gay & Lesbian Awakening Days
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  • Gay Community News
  • LGBT culture in Boston
  • LGBT history


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Documenting, Preserving, and Sharing New England's LGBTQ History". The History Project. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  2. Allis, Sam (2010-04-13). "Decades after Boston's gay community first began to organize, memories remain sharp for those who lived the history. For the younger generation? Not so much. This year, marked by anniversaries, could change that". The Boston Globe – via ProQuest.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bouvier, Libby (December 10, 2019). "Here's to another 40 years with your help". The History Project. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  4. "Notices". Sojourner: The Women's Forum. 5 (8): 29. April 1, 1980. ISSN 0191-8699. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  5. "Boston Lesbian History: Combating Historical Amnesia". Sojourner: The Women's Forum. 9 (7): 12–13, 29. March 1, 1984. ISSN 0191-8699. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  6. 6.0 6.1 McGarry, Molly (December 1998). "Reviewed Work: Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland by History Project". The New England Quarterly. 71 (4): 648–652. doi:10.2307/366610. JSTOR 366610.
  7. Kahn, Robert M. (June 14, 1998). "Books - Urban outing - 'Improper Bostonians' chronicles three centuries of gay life in Hub". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2020-08-24 – via NewsBank.
  8. Phelps, Rob (January 16, 2020). "Boston's History Project names first executive director: Joan Ilacqua". Boston Spirit Magazine. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  9. "David Scondras Papers" (PDF). The History Project Collections. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  10. "Charles Shively Papers" (PDF). The History Project Collections. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  11. "Robert John Quinn's Memorial Books". The History Project Collections. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  12. "Boston Pride Collection" (PDF). The History Project Collections. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  13. "Looking Back. Facing Forward. 2009 Inaugural HistoryMaker Awards Event". The History Project. Retrieved 2020-08-24.
  14. Phelps, Rob (December 22, 2019). "At 2019 HistoryMaker Awards, History Project to honor Denise Simmons and Hebrew SeniorLife's LGBTQ initiative". Boston Spirit Magazine. Retrieved 2021-02-02.

External Links[edit]

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