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Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests donates organizational archive to the Tretter Collection

By July 9, 2024July 11th, 2024No Comments

Logo for the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, with full name printed over a triangle broken up into sections with graphics of music notes, art, and a rainbow

The Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests (BMC) announced on June 28, 2024, that it deposited the archives of their bi-national organization at the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota. Created between the 1970s and the 2020s, BMC’s archive offers an unprecedented look into the grassroots activism of LGBTQIA+ Anabaptists across Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, and the Church of the Brethren.

“At the Tretter Collection, BMC’s archives exist in a setting where LGBTQIA+ people are inherently valued, celebrated, and cared for by archivists who reflect our community’s demographics and commitments,” said Annabeth Roeschley (they/she), Executive Director of BMC. “Doing archival work from a queer and trans vantage point enables us to counteract the ongoing revision and erasure of our vital histories by religious institutions. With this move, we claim the power to tell our own story.

BMC Board Chair Xaris A. Martínez (ella/she/her) said the BMC Board hopes that the organization’s archive will be an ever-expanding resource for the LGBTQIA+ community, researchers, and activists alike. “Learning from our past is crucial as we continue to call on faith communities and other entities to welcome the gifts of all of our queer and trans kin.” Martínez noted that BMC plans to observe its 50th anniversary in Minneapolis in 2026, which will provide opportunities for its multigenerational constituency to engage with BMC’s archive and other materials in the Tretter Collection.

“Bringing this collection to the Tretter is an expression of our long-standing investment in LGBTQIA+ history and culture, while underscoring our commitment to capturing the full breadth of queer and trans life, including at the intersection of religion and spirituality,” said Aiden Bettine (he/him), curator of the Tretter Collection. Bettine, a public historian whose research focuses on community archives-building in the Gay Liberation movement, noted that, “stewarding a collection like the BMC archives demonstrates how the LGBTQ community is tethered — locally, nationally, and even internationally.”

Doris Malkmus (she/her), archivist for the LGBTQ Religious Archives Network (LGBTQ-RAN), noted that “when LGBTQ organizations like BMC locate their records within denominational archives, the size and scale of LGBTQ religious movements across all denominations is lost. At the Tretter Collection, BMC’s records will more readily be included in the story of LGBTQ religious history.”

Malkmus and Bettine will co-host a “Behind the Scenes at the Archives” webinar on July 24 that will feature the accession of BMC’s archive by the Tretter Collection, followed by “Queering Our Anabaptist Archive,” a virtual BMC community event hosted by Roeschley and Martínez that will provide details about the move of archival materials from the Brethren Historical Library and Archive in Elgin, IL, and Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, MN, to the Tretter Collection.

According to Bettine, “It is rare to find such a robust collection that dates back fifty years, showing decades of organizing and activism in the LGBTQIA+ community. It is truly a gift to be able to share and create intergenerational memory through physical records that show our community has always been here. The BMC records are a treasure for the present community and future generations.”

The BMC archive is currently being processed and is slated to be opened by the end of the year. BMC plans to maintain connections to Mennonite and Brethren archives in North America and beyond to ensure that queer and trans Anabaptists remain part of each denomination’s history and future.

About Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests

Founded in 1976, BMC’s mission is to care for LGBTQIA+ Anabaptists and cultivate an inclusive, just, and welcoming church and society across Anabaptist denominations. Originally called the “Brethren/Mennonite Council for Gay Concerns,” the organization’s name has expanded alongside queer and trans Mennonite and Brethren communities. BMC’s Supportive Communities Network now includes nearly 150 publicly-affirming churches and organizations committed to LGBTQIA+ justice in their denominations.

About The Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies is the largest LGBTQ-specific archival repository in the upper Midwest. The Tretter Collection holds approximately 3,500 linear feet of material — including books, periodicals, grey literature, personal and organizational records, zines and pamphlets, artifacts and ephemera, and audiovisual materials. The collection is national and international in scope (featuring materials in approximately 58 languages), but is especially strong in materials documenting the history of LGBTQ people, organizations, and communities in the Upper Midwest, especially the Twin Cities area. The Tretter also serves as a hub for queer and trans engagement and use of the collection, hosting panel discussions, community conversations, exhibits, and other events designed to support critical inquiry into LGBTQ pasts. The collection is housed at the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Contact

Annabeth Roeschley: (612) 343-2060 bmc@bmclgbt.org

Katie Miller

Author Katie Miller

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