'A sense of continuing history'


By Kerry Parnell

SYDNEY — The annual Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras has emerged as an important cultural institution and, according to professional archivist Kimberly O'Sullivan, it is important that its history doesn't slip away.

Two years ago, an archive was set up in a Rushcutters Bay office under the supervision of O'Sullivan.

Thanks to a long-term commitment by the Mardi Gras committee and an annual budget of $2000, an impressive collection has emerged. It includes dance party memorabilia, press clippings, photographs, reports, records of negotiations with police, poster artwork and promotional publicity.

Selected material was displayed at Bookshop Darlinghurst during the 1991 festival, giving the public a rare insight into developments over the past decade.

Although the Mardi Gras archive is the only one of its type in New South Wales, a national archive has existed in Melbourne since 1978.

An initiative of the Fourth Homosexual Conference, this collection was originally named the Australian Gay Archive. In 1990 this was changed to the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archive.

Completely privately funded, this archive is kept under the home of a Melbourne resident who has committed considerable time and money to it.

Kimberly O'Sullivan believes that, despite the cost and the need for long-term planning, the archive is important for understanding the present and planning for the future.

She says that archives are equally important for the Green movement, and is concerned that records of organisations such as Friends of the Earth have not survived into the 1990s.

According to O'Sullivan, records "give you a sense of continuing history — that you didn't come from nowhere, that you are part of a continuum — and for people who are traditionally denied their history or written out of history, that is very important".

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