• Jack Breckheimer - OYM Intern

The Odyssey Archive: Preserving History for Future Generations

Ever wonder what 30 years of history looks like?

A large variety of old photos, CDs and documents spread across a black table. In the foreground, a stack of photos is spread out like playing cards, overlapping each other. The background consists of photo evelopes from years past and two disposable film cameras. The OYM logo is in the bottom right corner.
Spreading things out to see what we have before starting to organize the archive.


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.


A table is covered with banker's boxes and hanging file boxes. Post-it notes are scattered across the boxes, folder, and individual items. Near the center of the frame is a scrap book with the rainbow flag "Odyssey Youth Center" logo. Scapbooks, photos, and news clippings poke out of the boxes.
On the way to organized...

 

If you have any items (photos, news clippings, other media) related to Odyssey Youth Movement’s history and want to make sure it is preserved digitally in the tentatively named “OYM Archive”, please get in touch with us at intern@odysseyyouth.org.


If you have more context for photos/documents or are uncomfortable with their usage on Odyssey's public pages for any reason, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you for your ongoing support and stay tuned to all of Odyssey’s social channels for more content related to our 30th Anniversary.


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