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New exhibit brings interactivity to the archives
Queer archives, libraries and museums often suffer from inaccessibility, particularly when they have a broad audience that may not be local.
 
On Sept 28, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives will expand its reach and live stream the launch of Pushing Buttons, an exhibit by artist William Craddock that will allow the community to interact with queer-themed buttons that date from the late 1960s to the present. 
 
The live stream will focus on the interactive parts of the exhibition, including website comments. The launch will also include photographs and original video work.
 
“It’s an opportunity for people to see and share their stories of buttons from the community’s history,” says Scott Kettles, the general manager of the archives.
 
Larger museums often put part or full exhibits online. The Royal Ontario Museum uses its website to supplement its galleries and exhibitions with podcasts and archival photos and has a handful of exhibitions available only online. The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, based in New York, uses websites and pages to support its current and past programming. Until recently, however, the CLGA had not tried such a project.
 
“This is the first time in my recollection that this has been done by the CLGA in this format,” Kettles says. 
 
Pushing Buttons uses material from the Pin Button Project, an online exhibition and oral history project that both displays aspects of queer history and allows visitors to help write it. 
 
“I call it Pushing Buttons because it’s really looking at the historical shift or evolution,” Craddock says. “These pin buttons that people wore were one essential statement about causes that they supported or ideas that they believed in. Today, those buttons often take the form of our status updates and tweets within a social media platform. The buttons that we’re pushing now are keys on a keyboard, and those are becoming activist media in a lot of situations. The exhibition is looking at that and at combining analogue buttons with new technology and how we express our statements through digital means.”
 
The project launched at the end of June and focuses on the buttons as well as conversations around them.
 
“I wanted to create a medium for the archives to collect personal stories from people in the community who were at particular events or remember various happenings from the time to share their stories and create a discussion around their history,” Craddock says. 
 
The interactivity of the website, and of the Sept 28 launch, are important to the larger conversation about history, Craddock says.
 
“Whatever it is you’re doing within the space actually becomes part of the exhibition and part of what the artist is trying to say about the particular issue at hand,” he says.  
 
In addition to commenting, visitors to the website can adopt a button through a $25 donation to the CLGA. Though Kettles says there have been few adoptions so far, he hopes there will be more, along with more traffic, as Pushing Buttons draws closer. 
 
“We’re very happy with the response, and we’re looking forward to more people visiting the site as more buttons get launched,” Kettles says. “We’re always, at the archives, looking for new ways to reach outside of the Toronto area, and this is a new way to do so.”
 
Pushing Buttons
Launches Fri, Sept 28, 7:30-10pm
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
34 Isabella St
To watch the live stream, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/thepinbuttonproject.
View the Pin Button Project.
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