by Chuck Colbert
The announcement on Bilerico’s website could not have been any clearer: “When the Smithsonian comes calling, you answer the door,” wrote Bil Browning, co-founder and publisher of The Bilerico Project.
“There is no bigger honor for writers or activists than being asked to donate your papers to the National Archives. My husband, Jerame Davis, and I are thrilled and honored to donate our extensive collection of papers and memorabilia to the Smithsonian Institution.”
|Bil Browning, co-founder and publisher of
The Bilerico Project
The Bilerico donation — Collection #1334: The Bil Browning and Jerame Davis Papers — is substantial and includes an extensive collection of papers and memorabilia collected during their time advocating for LGBT civil rights in their native Indiana and beyond.
The name for Bilerico is a combination of its founder’s first name (Bil) and the first name of Browning’s college friend, Eric Muramatsu.
Altogether, “Bilerico is a type of project — an open-ended experiment in communication and cultural community building,” according to a website posting about its history and mission.
A native of Indiana, Browning’s blog at first focused on LGBT issues in that state. In 2007, however, the blog took on LGBT political issues nationally, at the same time it embraced the full spectrum of LGBT life. Browning moved from his home state to a new base in Washington, D.C.
In a Facebook posting, Browning discussed in some detail what the donation includes.
“From childhood photos and report cards to Indiana Action Network (IAN) pamphlets and Indiana Equality planning documents, they’ve taken it all,” he wrote. “I’ve kept every email I’ve ever sent or received related to LGBT rights since 1999; they have them all now. Even the megaphone so many of us used at several pro-LGBT rallies — complete with the IAN sticker — has been taken to be part of the National Museum of American History. It will go on display this June as part of their LGBT Pride exhibit.”
LGBT bloggers and activists welcomed news of the donation.
“I am thrilled to see the Smithsonian include the history of our movement online and there is no better work than that of Bil and Jerame to lead the collection,” said Mike Rogers, vice chairman and managing director of Raw Story Media. “Their work represents the rare combination of activists (leaders in Indiana’s LGBT movement) who have also been both journalists and staff on a national level. The totality of their story is a great representation of a generation of online activists. The work of bloggers is as important as any generation’s independent voice and to exclude them from the records of history would deny the important roles these sites have played in the movement. I commend the Smithsonian for including these important records in the nation’s history.”
Jos Truitt, executive director of Feministing.com, an online community run by and for young feminists, also welcomed news of the donation. “My friends and I often talk about how relatively little of our queer/trans history we have access to, so it’s pretty amazing to know this collection will be in the Smithsonian representing some of the story of a really important period in the LGBT rights movement,” she said.
And Rebecca Juro, media correspondent for Advocate.com and a Gay Voices contributor at The Huffington Post, offered her perspective.
“This is just wonderful and so well-deserved,” she said. “In 2007, when almost no one else was interested in trans writers and content, Bil Browning and Jerame Davis put a couple of loudmouth trans women who were basically unknown outside the trans community, Marti Abernathey and I, not only on their contributor staff, but also on their editorial team, and basically said, ‘Go! Help us build trans representation at Bilerico.’ There have been a few bumps and bruises along the way, but The Bilerico Project has been a real pioneer in bringing the voices of trans people into LGBT commercial media. In fact, I’d argue that every trans blogger and journalist being published today owes Bil and Jerame a debt for helping to create commercial LGBT media space for our voices at a time when not many sites were willing to take a chance on us. I know I do.”
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