UK Web Archive blog

07 June 2021

Curating the UKWA LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection

By Ash Green and Steven Dryden - LGBTQ+ Lives Online lead curators

The LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection has been live now for almost a year. This has given us the time to gain a better understanding of the content in it, and also how people are interacting with the collection. Based on this, we wanted to consider some of the challenges around structuring, tagging and representing sites within it.

Sub-Collections & Subject tagging

When the collection was set up, one of the tasks that needed to be undertaken was defining the structure of the sub-collections. At this stage they are organised as follows:

  • Activism/Pride
  • Arts, Literature, Music & Culture
  • Business/Commerce
  • Education
  • History
  • Medicine and Community
  • Policy and Legislative Change
  • Religion
  • Social Organisations
  • Sport

We defined the sub-collections based on what we thought would be added to the collection, without actually knowing what the majority of that content might be. As more sites have been added we can see that some sub-collections work well and others not so well. We are getting a sense of which sub-collections might need to be revisited.

One sub-collection that at this stage requires more consideration in terms of whether it should be changed or split, is Medicine & Community. When we set this up, it felt like a logical pairing – both aspects of the sub-collection are about well-being, with one indicating it’s about medical support, and the other about wellness achieved through peer support. But now, as we add more sites to this sub-collection, the terminology doesn’t feel quite right. This is especially true when sites focused more on well-being, emotional support and guidance, such as Spectra and Outline Surrey are included in the sub-collection. Possibly a more appropriate sub-collection name would be Health & Community, which would still allow the inclusion of medical and community wellness, but under a clearer umbrella.

No homophobia, no violence t-shirt

When the collection was set up, Retirement also featured as a sub-collection. We eventually removed this before go-live. Not because it wasn’t relevant, but because there was insufficient online content within the collection to justify including it at this stage. That said, that may change over time and an increase in sites focusing on both retirement and older LGBTQ+ people’s lives may result in us re-instating it or a similar sub-collection. Similarly, other themes might rise out of existing sites in the collection that would require new sub-collections to be added, or even new subjects to be included. Part of the key purpose of the collection is to not only archive appropriate web sites, but to also make them findable via the sub-collections.

As well as adding sites to sub-collections within the LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection, they can also be assigned to other collections and sub-collections. For example, Graces Cricket Club (a gay cricket club) appear in both the LGBTQ+ Lives Online / Sport sub-collection and the separate Sport: Football collection. In cases like this, there’s no question that it’s perfectly appropriate to include this site in both subject collections. However, in some instances, LGBTQ+ sites have also been previously included in inappropriate sub-collections. For example, one site in the collection had previously been assigned to Medicine and Health / Conditions & Diseases sub-collection before the LGBTQ+ Lives

Online project began. This incorrectly implied that being an LGBTQ+ person was either a “condition” or a “disease”. This has been corrected, but it highlights that we also need to be aware that choosing which collection or sub-collection we add a site to has implications about how a curator perceives that site, and the negative bias we may in turn present to collection users by including a site in an inappropriate sub-collection.

Content Warnings
Another area we are considering is content warnings. When we recently ran an online session about the collection, we were asked if any content warnings were included in the descriptions of sites tagged within the collection. Another person also expressed concern about the inclusion of sites within the LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection that were negative or hostile towards members of the LGBTQ+ community. Though these sites are included, they do not provide content warnings about their harmful and negative perspectives or context about their inclusion. Again, this is a valid comment, and content warnings would help identify that users were about to enter a site whose perspectives might be problematic or triggering.

Keyboard - caution

You may also be wondering why sites such as the ones that are negative or hostile towards members of the LGBTQ+ community are included in the collection? It goes back to the purpose of this project, which is to archive UK sites that reflect UK LGBTQ+ lives and experiences. This includes positive, neutral and negative sites if relevant. For example, we include at least one site in the collection that questions the validity of trans and gender non-conforming people as apart of the LGBTQ+ community. If we didn’t include this site, it would not give a balanced picture of trans people’s experience, as it would miss out on a key factor that has had a huge impact on many trans lives over the past few years. As such, even though we do not agree with questioning the validity of trans and gender non-

conforming people, those sites are valid to LGBTQ+ research and discussion. But it’s not just sites like these that we would consider including a content warning against. Any sites highlighting LGBTQ+ phobic or hate content may also be included.

Content warnings are not something we’ve considered before, and at present, the cataloguing rules for the UK Web Archive collection don’t have capacity for the inclusion of content warnings. However, following on from these conversations, it is something we need to address, along with highlighting that including content within the collection does not necessarily mean that the curators agree with the opinions in those sites.

The structure of the sub-collections and content warnings are areas that we want to address as soon as we can, and it is something we would like to discuss with the wider LGBTQ+ community. How we achieve that is yet to be decided, but we are always open to suggestions.

In the mean-time, don’t forget that you can explore the LGBTQ+ Lives Online UK Web Archive collection.

You can also nominate sites for inclusion in the collection.