by Fred Kuhr
Longtime Seattle Gay News (SGN) editor and publisher George Bakan, who died unexpectedly last year, was the driving force for much of what happened at the newspaper. And that drive continues today.
In fact, his death prompted the push to create a complete archive of the Seattle Gay News, dating back to 1975.
The idea was first raised by Marcellus Turner, executive director and chief librarian of Seattle Public Libraries at the time of Bakan’s death. “What’s happening with the archives?” he asked.
According to SGN, “Little did he know that this simple but loaded question would soon spur a yearlong project that would include many volunteers and countless hours.”
Turner teamed up with Rick McKinnon, a longtime SGN employee and a friend of Bakan’s, to start the project. They then brought together volunteers from the City of Seattle, the University of Washington, Washington State Libraries, Seattle Public Libraries, HistoryLink, former city councillor Tom Rasmussen, and Bakan’s daughter Angela Cragin, who inherited the newspaper.
The fact that many were in lockdown during the pandemic gave volunteers to work on the project.
“As a gay man, it was amazing to see the accumulation of our history in print and pictures,” said Steve Alexander, director of philanthropy at KUOW, Seattle’s public radio station. “To see how hurt our community has been for so long, to see this fast evolution from our history of violence, death and destruction, to being a part of every family, then to see gay marriage, it was like seeing your life flash before your eyes,” he told SGN.
For former councillor Rasmussen, “To see all the complete, detailed and chronological order of LGBTQ life in the Pacific Northwest, well, there is nothing like it.”
Almost a year after the project started, the group is readying to ship compiled archives to places that have requested them, including Yale University, Florida’s Stonewall Library, various libraries in Washington State and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, according to SGN.
The plan is for SGN to keep its own in-house archive as well.
There is also a plan to digitize the entire archive with the help of Newspapers.com. But digitization, which Cragin calls a “pipe dream,” will take about three years to complete.
Unfortunately, SGN’s archive is not complete. It is missing issues from as recently as 2014 and as long ago as 1975. If you happen to have old issues of SGN, you can contact SGN at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THE NEWS