my first day at the archives was spent alone in a stuffy upstairs room with my big box of buttons- mainly from the 80s and 90s, and a few from the 70’s. each button is given a number, which is then entered into a spreadsheet along with information like size, text, year, and any other notable details about the button. then the button is scanned and uploaded into an online directory for all of eternity. the job is really cool, and i didn’t get much work done the first day because i couldn’t stop looking through all of the buttons. i had seen pictures of some of these very buttons before, and it was really surreal to hold them in my own hands. there are a ton of buttons from old organizations and events, including many from the michigan women’s music festival. there is so much herstory in these small bags of buttons alone. i think my favorites are the hand drawn ones. i think its really unfortunate that we don’t make buttons like this anymore. it’s unfortunate that button makers cost hundreds of dollars, because i really would like to bring this craft back into popularity in lesbian culture.
the second day i was there was my favorite so far. i met a very kind older woman when i accidentally startled her, because she didn’t notice me come in or go upstairs. after helping her move some boxes around and looking through some old materials, she showed me some of her favorite things around the second floor. she apologized a bunch for talking my ear off but i’m so glad she did. she had so many facts for each object hanging on the wall, and i loved knowing that this was firsthand information and stories from her own experiences. to hear someone talk about what things were like when they were my age 50 years ago is so amazing. later on a tour group came to see the archive and i went on their official tour, which was great because i got to learn so many little things about the place and people i’m surrounded by. the tour group bought us pizza which was ever so kind, and by the middle of the day a bunch more volunteers had shown up. getting to know all of them with a pizza party was great, even though i think i cataloged like 2 buttons that day.
day 3 is most notable for being the day i was locked inside the archive for two hours. someone must have set the alarm without realizing i was quietly working upstairs, and when i got up to leave, the loudest alarm i have ever had the displeasure of witnessing went off. if you were planning to burglarize the archives, i would highly recommend you make alternate plans, if only because the alarm will almost definitely cause permanent hearing damage. i hid behind as many doors as i could to muffle the sound, ironically settling down in a closet, and eventually it turned off. i knew if i moved it would start right back up again, so i waited completely still for two hours until the archives caretaker came home.
day 4 started with me setting off the alarm again, but i was saved by a disembodied voice that called out to me and told me what to do and as a result, the alarm was only blaring for about 10 seconds. once i was in i searched the entire building but couldn’t find anyone. the only conclusion i can draw from this is that the goddess is alive and she hangs out at the lesbian herstory archives.
the rest of the days have started blending together, not in a bad way, but in the sense that i feel welcome and comfortable here, and coming in to catalog buttons and see the other archivettes has become a highlight of my week. i love to see what others are working on- a documentary on the disappearance of lesbian bars, a phd on the archives photo collection, research on political banners, the archives social media presence. there’s so much going on and i’m so glad that us and future generations can have access to this great place.