I’m a research assistant for the Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada (LGLC) project at the Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) at Ryerson University. The LGLC uses two annotated chronologies compiled by Donald McLeod that cover lesbian and gay liberation in Canada from 1964-1975 and from 1976-1981. Those key texts have been encoded in XML-TEI and are now being used for the creation of a prosopography and of a graph database in Neo4j. The prosopography is the part that I am working on.
A prosoprography is a collective biographical research tool that is used to study a defined group of individuals. For the LGLC project, this group consists of the people in McLeod’s two texts. Using the encoded versions, over the last six months I’ve extracted any and all biographical data about the people mentioned in the 1964-1975 chronology. I have gathered information (when available) on each person’s occupation, organization membership, sexual or gender identity, arrest history, and relationships. I’ve also recorded any connections they may have had to various periodicals and locations. All of this information has been compiled in a multi-tabbed spreadsheet.
A few months ago I finished extracting information from the first volume of Donald McLeod’s chronologies, and so, I have now turned my focus to secondary research to further expand and enrich the prosopography. On an average work day, like today, I methodically search each of the names in the prosopography and attempt to gather more basic biographical information about them (especially their date and place of birth, as well as their date and place of death, when possible). The prosopography continues to grow week by week and I can only imagine how extensive it will be in the future.
The research that I’m doing here at the CDH is only a portion of the work being done on the LGLC project. Other research assistants (Jessica Bonney, Raymon Sandhu, and Travis White) at the University of British Columbia are busy encoding the second volume of McLeod’s chronologies and using Neo4j to generate network visualizations. The whole project is overseen by Michelle Schwartz here at Ryerson and Constance Crompton at UBC.
Working on this project has been an immensely rewarding experience for me. It has allowed me to learn about amazing and inspiring people (many of which are Canadians) whom I otherwise may never have heard of. Reading about and researching their lives has at times made me laugh and has brought more than a few tears to my eyes. It has also given me a greater respect and appreciation for the LGBT community and their quest for liberation. Their fight was and is real and their names and actions need to be remembered.