‘U’ Libraries receives major multi-year grant for transgender oral history project

Funding to document transgender experiences in the Upper Midwest

Tawani Foundation has generously awarded a major multi-year grant to the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries for the purpose of documenting the historic and contemporary experience of transgender individuals in the Upper Midwest. 

Contact info

Lisa Vecoli, Curator, Tretter Collection
University of Minnesota Libraries
lvecoli@umn.edu
612- 624-7526

This will be done through the collection of up to 400 hours of oral histories involving 200 to 300 individuals over the next three years. A major effort will be the recruitment of individuals of all ages and experiences for the oral histories. 

This project will support the Upper Midwest transgender community and empower individuals to tell their story, while providing students, historians, and the public with a more rich foundation of primary source material about the transgender community.

The Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries is collaborating on this project with the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Materials will be housed within the Tretter Collection at the University’s Elmer L. Andersen Library.

“As a member of the Leadership Council for the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and as Founder and Chairwoman of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, I am very glad to be a partner and contributor to a prestigious institution like the University of Minnesota that has done so much in so many diverse areas to spread enlightenment and education,” said COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Ret.), Founder, Pritzker Military Museum & Library. “I particularly wish to use this as an opportunity to salute and honor fellow veteran Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, Founder of the Tretter Collection at the University, for his scholarship and most of all for his years of valuable and distinguished service in the United States Navy.”

Other project goals include:

  • Increasing awareness and use of the archives in the Tretter Collection
  • Adding to the holdings of the Tretter Collection through the oral histories and the addition of other materials, such as journals and photographs
  • Documenting the role of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School
  • Making information about the transgender community accessible online to researchers and the public

“This is an important project primarily because we want to make sure that transgender experiences are represented, recognized, and preserved for current and future generations,” said Lisa Vecoli, curator of the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. “These voices are missing and who better to share that experience and tell that story than the people who lived it.”

Emily Atchison, a senior at the University of Minnesota who volunteers with the Tretter Collection, said she’s thrilled to be contributing her story.

“My story, and all of the others, will add to the diversity of voices and experiences for people in the future,” Atchison said. “Volunteering in the archive gave me the opportunity to learn and take courage from those who came before and now I can pass that gift on.”

The oral histories will join millions of other items already in the Tretter Collection including books, periodicals, organizational records and personal papers. The archive provides a record of GLBT thought, knowledge and culture for current and future generations and is available to students, researchers and members of the public. 

Vecoli said she expects to begin gathering oral histories in early 2015. Anyone interested the Transgender Oral History Project or the Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies is encouraged to contact Lisa Vecoli at lvecoli@umn.edu.

The Transgender Oral History Project is a collaboration of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries, University of Minnesota Foundation, and the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. It is funded with a grant from Tawani Foundation established by Colonel (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), founder of the Pritzker Military Museum and Library.

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