The Odyssey Archive: Preserving History for Future Generations
Ever wonder what 30 years of history looks like?
Over the past month, we have begun the process of sifting through and attempting to organize Odyssey’s collection of old photos, documents, and newspaper clippings. In its 30 year history, Odyssey has amassed quite a lot. Sorting through this collection and preserving it for future generations has been no easy task.
The primary challenge has been getting a grasp on what we actually have. Besides the smattering of one-hour photo orders, there are CD-Rs, DVDs, Mini-CDs, and VHS tapes spanning the past 20+ years. There are even a couple of disposable cameras, assumably with photos that were never developed.
The process of creating an archive system is very much ongoing. At the moment, we have most of our photos categorized by year. Unfortunately, there are also a significant number of undated photographs. We will have to do some investigation to try and place these in Odyssey’s timeline. Bringing these analog formats into the digital world will be a burdensome task. Scanning hundreds (if not thousands) of physical photos into image files is going to be a time-consuming endeavor.
Seeing Odyssey’s physical space, as well as its community reach, expand over the years is a visual reminder of the progress that has been made. Odyssey began without a space of its own, meeting in an extra (read: free) room at the YWCA. Even after a standalone location was secured, its address was kept under wraps out of safety concerns. Photos show the bones of the current South Perry in its empty infancy; Odyssey moved in and filled it with youth in the spring of 2006.
Odyssey’s important place within the community is also evidenced in the collection. From Pride events in the 90s to lobbying for marriage equality in the 2000s, Odyssey youth have been active in promoting LGBTQ+ equity across the organization's 30-year history. Part of the purpose of preserving this history in an archive is to provide future queer youth with examples of courage and active citizenship.
It has been extremely rewarding and affirming to pour over this history. If one lesson comes out of this process, it is that queer youth have always been here and they are certainly not going away. Odyssey has provided a space for LGBTQ+ youth to learn about and be themselves for the past 30 years, a legacy we are proud of and hope to continue.
There is a lot of work left to be done. We hope to share many more of these memories with the Odyssey community throughout the year. Looking back at this history is more important than just nostalgia and celebration; it helps advance the larger project of recording LGBTQ+ history. As an organization focused on community education, we believe it is part of our job to preserve these stories and media for future generations to learn from.