NEWARK, NJ - Rutgers University–Newark’s Queer Newark Oral History Project has teamed up with Audible to stage a public-history exhibit documenting local LGBTQ history through the stories of those who live it. 

“At Home in Newark: Stories from the Queer Newark Oral History Project,” draws on oral histories, writing, photographs, audio, video, and interactive elements to chronicle the struggles, and achievements of the city’s LGBTQ and gender non-conforming community. 

The 13-panel exhibit housed in Audible’s Newark headquarters lobby at 1 Washington St. tells the stories of LGBTQ Newarkers who face discrimination, poverty, violence, illness, racism, and discrimination. 

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“The Queer Newark Oral History Project exists to combat the invisibility of LGBTQ history in the City of Newark and to ensure that the narratives of the LGBTQ community are told and preserved,” said Christina Strasburger, who co-founded QNOHP in 2011.

From the beginning, the group trained residents to do oral histories, collect artifacts of the local LBGTQ community, and build an archive to the public and scholars to access easily. Rutgers faculty started the group, but it is staffed with LGBTQ Newark residents and activists. 

The goal has been to collect and preserve the life stories of LGBTQ people in Newark, where queer people of color make up the majority. 

QNOHP earned awards and recognition from its documentation, preservation, and promotion of the history of LGBTQ lives in Newark. 

Rutgers-Newark graduate students in Professor Mary Rizzo's American Studies and History class “Place, Community, and Public Humanities” and undergraduate graphic-design students in Professor Chantal Fischzang’s Visual Means class used the stories to curate the “At Home in Newark” exhibit in 2017.

Coleen Barr, who heads the company’s employee-led LGBTQ staff group, heard about the exhibit and reached out to QNOHP. Strasburger saw this as the beginning of a long-term partnership to make LGBTQ life more visible in Newark. 

The two organizations will march together during the Newark Gay Pride march on July 14. Audible’s float and t-shirts will include QNOHP as well. 

“Audible recognizes the importance of making this history visible and accessible to a broader audience, and they have been an incredible community partner,” said Strasburger. “We are thrilled that the exhibit has been so well received and has fostered feelings of belonging and acceptance.”

New Jersey became the second state to require LGBTQ history to be taught in schools in 2019. In the future, the Queer Newark Oral History Project hopes to develop curricular materials for local middle schools and high schools. 

 

“At Home in Newark: Stories from the Queer Newark Oral History Project” will be at Audible through mid-July. For more information or to schedule your site to host the exhibit, contact queernk@newark.rutgers.edu. A permanent version of the exhibit is also on display on the third floor of RU-N’s Conklin Hall.