What is the Queer Digital History Project (QDHP)?
The QDHP is an ongoing effort to document and preserve pre-2010 LGBTQ spaces online. Currently, it has 3 collections:
The Queer Digital Community Catalog - The QDCC collects basic information and resources on LGBTQ-related online communities prior to 2010, particularly those from the so-called Web 1.0 period. Each catalog entry includes information on the group’s format, its approximate dates of activity, its audience and topical focus, and links to other materials discussing the group, such as editorial columns, personal essays, or archival materials.
Primary Documents Archive - This collection holds primary documents (listings, programs, applications, etc) related to LGBTQ life online pre-2010. All mirrored files have been re-hosted with their original hosts’ permission.
Mapping TGNet - This map plots out the various bulletin board systems, or BBSes, that comprised TGNet, one of the first independent international transgender digital communication networks.
Why do we need the QDHP?
Since computer networking's inception, LGBTQ individuals (such as Tom Jennings or Mary Ann Horton, to name a few) have been key players in the development of digital platforms. From the 1980s onward, sysops (short for system operators) of various identities created and nurtured communities online, where individuals could network, find support, and access vital information.
However, the rise of commercial web providers like America Online and then social media platforms shifted attention and prospective members away from these smaller, ad-hoc spaces, which were often labors of love for their hosts. By collecting information and documents from this period, the QDHP provides necessary context for understanding the full scope of LGBTQ “net history”.
How does the QDHP organize its content? What terminology does it use?
The QDHP follows a policy similar to the Digital Transgender Archive: whenever possible, content is categorized using terminology derived from the document or contemporaneous descriptions. While it may not always reflect current preferred terms nor offer a particularly neat, organized taxonomy, this practice does aim to avoid retroactively applying labels to individuals or spaces who might not have identified with them—a politically fraught act.
What kind of content does the QDHP not hold?
The QDHP does not hold:
Private communication between individuals unless both parties have given written consent to the QDHP for the files to be archived
Individual postings to communities as single files unless they are either directly related to group structure (such as FAQs or group statistics) or contain group history narratives.
Moreover, the QDHP does not link to blog posts or similar “publicly private” communications about communities in the Catalog unless the author has given written consent for the post to be included.
Is access to any of the content on the QDHP restricted?
In most cases, content hosted on the QDHP will always be publicly available. However, complete archives of a community, when available, will come with some form of access restriction outlined on the file page itself.