RMN’22 – Digging Deeper: Telling the Stories of Rural LGBTQ+ Lives

In March 2022, we were delighted to welcome Norena Shopland back to the Rural Museums Network to build upon some of the discussions begun during our Telling the Stories of Rural LGBTQ+ Lives seminar.

Amelia Vella, the ‘girl sailor’
or ‘female sailor’, 1898

Norena explored in depth how rural museums can utilise her research to showcase a new reading of the local landscape. Working-class, and rural people have rarely been written about in history. When they are, it is often for sensational reasons, an arrest, an accident or death, or doing something that defied social conventions. Consequently, these stories are often seen in a negative light and avoided. Museums rarely include them, but it does not have to be this way. With limited knowledge and resources, small museums can take small stories and make an exhibition, a blog, an ebooklet, that will fascinate everyone.

Norena’s presentation used real accounts from historical sources and showed that, by applying intersectionality, we can gain new skills in not only locating stories in historic material but getting maximum value from them. No story is too small.

Norena’s book, A Practical Guide to Searching LGBTQIA Historical Records is published by Routledge, 2020.

The Queering Glamorgan research guide to sources for the study of LGBT History, mentioned by Norena during the seminar, is available as a downloadable PDF from the Glamorgan Archives.

This session was hosted by David Rounce, Project Director with Glencoe Folk Museum.

Norena Shopland is an author/historian specialising in the history of sexual orientation and gender identity. Her book Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales (Seren Books, 2017) is the first completely historical work on Welsh LGBTQ+ history. Queering Glamorgan and A Practical Guide to Searching LGBTQIA Historical Records (Routledge, 2020) have become very popular as toolkits to aid people in doing research. Shopland also researches and writes on Welsh history including her book The Curious Case of the Eisteddfod Baton and an exhibition and forthcoming book on the Tip Girls of Wales, women working in the coal industry. In 2021 Shopland was commissioned by the Welsh Government to deliver LGBTQ+ training to local libraries, museums, and archives in Wales. Her latest book is A History of Women in Men’s Clothes: from cross-dressing to empowerment (Pen and Sword Books, 2021). @NorenaShopland

David Rounce is Project Director with Glencoe Folk Museum and still pinches himself that he’s paid to build museums. A graduate of the University of York with BA (hons) History/Archaeology and MA Transport History, he has worked in curatorial roles for twelve years in a number of independent museums, most recently managing the award-winning rebuilding of Ravenglass Railway Museum in Cumbria. Away from work David’s hobbies include playwriting, photography, and talking about himself in the third person. @RounceDavid and orphaned-objects.blogspot.com

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