BY: ANNA PRENTISS , KELSEY KLOPFENSTEIN
An opening reception will take place from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 9, at MoFA.
A collaborative project between Florida State University Libraries and the FSU Honors Program presents “It’s A Lot Like Falling in Love: Legacies of Naiad Press and the Tallahassee Lesbian Community,” on display June 9-Oct. 29 at the Museum of Fine Arts (MoFA).
Through this exhibit, Michael Franklin, a specialized faculty member in the Honors Program, and students in his LGBTQ Oral History Methods class showcase interviews with women involved with Naiad Press, a woman-run and Tallahassee-based publishing company of lesbian fiction and non-fiction.
Franklin said the exhibit draws heavily from 12 oral history interviews and from personal photographs, local news coverage and an exhibition-lending library, plus other historical documents and objects.
“This exhibition looks at what Naiad meant to the people involved with it and how Naiad provided lifelines to women-loving women,” he said.
“We’re delighted to be collaborative partners with Dr. Franklin and his students,” said Katie McCormick, associate dean of Special Collections & Archives. “The memories, insights and perspectives of the people interviewed are invaluable contributions to understanding the history of Tallahassee’s LGBT community. There’s more work to be done to expand our collections, but we are honored to make these oral history interviews available.”
The exhibition opens during nationally recognized Pride Month and continues through the end of October, which marks LGBT History Month.
“This project has been special for many reasons,” said Meredith Lynn, curator and interim director of FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts. “The oral histories collected by Dr. Franklin and his student partners are important additions to the record, but their process of collaboration also models the kind of community that Naiad envisioned. We’re honored to be able to bring this work to our audiences.”
Naiad Press opened in 1973 as one of the earliest publishers of lesbian literature in the United States. When it closed in 2003, the company stood as one of the largest publishers of lesbian literature in the world.
“This is an opportunity to underscore the importance of not only talking with people who are older than you as a way to learn about history but also the security of not losing histories that aren’t represented in archives,” Franklin said.
Oral history research about Naiad Press is a part of “LGBT Oral History Project of North Florida,” a volunteer-based public history collaboration that captures the stories, memories and histories of LGBTQ+ people in this region.
“It’s A Lot Like Falling in Love” explores three general themes — discovery, work and community — and provides visitors the opportunity to experience content on a personal level through dedicated spaces for reading and listening.
“I think that all of the generations now and forward do not have any concept of the leap of joy that we all had when we found something like a book that we were in — or when we found a group of people who were the same as we were — are,” said Donna McBride, a co-founder of Naiad Press. “It was kind of like falling in love, only it was even deeper than that, because it was such a vital part of your life, and it wasn’t anything that you could share with most of the people that you knew. And when you found something, it was just amazing.”
Along with funding from the Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), Franklin received a Project Enhancement Network & Incubator (PEN & Inc) grant from FSU Libraries for the purchase of the Naiad Press books in the exhibition library.
The oral history collection can be accessed at diginole.lib.fsu.edu. The PEN & Inc project site can be viewed at lgbtoralhistory.create.fsu.edu/naiadpress.
For more information, visit https://mofa.fsu.edu/.