Lithuanian Queer Archive

The Lithuanian Queer Archive initiative, the idea and need, which had been circulating in the community already for a while, has been launched in Lithuania in 2020. There were fragments and pursuits before, but this is the first project, which attempts to consolidate and systematically collect historical material.

The Queer Archive is a repository of LGBTQ+ people’s stories and experiences, which contributes to rethinking, researching, writing and building the community around marginalized history. There are scholars in Lithuania who are interested in queer history, but their work is usually buried in university drawers. The queer archive can therefore be a place where knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community is created and shared.

The stories of people condemned to the margins remain on the margins. These stories are contradictory, inconsistent, and their existence is bound by silence and secrecy. Queer people’s stories are trapped between absence and presence. In this way, stories become queer not only because they are about queer people. They become queer because they resist being generalized, condensed into a single narrative, straightened out.

Creative approach and method queers the story itself and shows that everything is more subtle, and the emphasis is put together by the narrator. Who is telling our story and in what way? Silence and the gaps in stories become as important as testimonies. Opportunities open up to talk about imaginary things – desires, myths and rumours.

Photo by Viktorija Kolbešnikova

How do we find and preserve what is outside the state narrative?

Typically, queer footprints would be found in court files or medical records. How do we find and preserve what is outside the state narrative? Is it safe to talk publicly about our strange and extremely interesting lives, which include glory holes in railway station toilets, parties in abandoned wooden houses, and gatherings of all kinds in private flats in apartment blocks, allowing us to relax, to escape from ourselves and into ourselves? The silence of secluded sexualities is closely linked to security.

Therefore, talking about queer history requires a great responsibility. Any publicity is an exposure of weakness. The endless reports of hate crimes against queer people and our everyday experiences results in us often not even wanting to share our colourful lives with others. By preserving our privacy, we often also protect our lives, and the silence born of the need for self-preservation becomes a refuge.

Photo by Viktorija Kolbešnikova

Get in touch.

With išgirsti Queer Archive initiative, we want things and stories to end up in a place where it is safe to share and gather, where you know that your story will not become another insensitively presented object of a contemporary art project, or the narrative of a TV show, with a mask and a changed voice, a tribute to the hetero imaginary.

Activists mention the need to write and talk about ourselves. Our story cannot be written by anyone else but us. The Queer Archive aims to be a place that provides knowledge about queer history in Lithuania and beyond, collecting and preserving objects, stories and other artefacts that bear witness to our lives. We invite you to contribute to the queer archive initiative with stories, objects and photos. You can contact us at archyvas@isgirsti.lt.

The archive is curated by Augustas Čičelis and Viktorija Kolbešnikova.

Photo by Viktorija Kolbešnikova