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JD Doyle Wins Texas Digital Library Award

The out historian has documented local LGBTQ life for 20 years.

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JD Doyle (photo by Alex Rosa for OutSmart magazine)

JD Doyle, a Houston-based LGBTQ historian, has been awarded the Texas Digital Library’s (TDL) 2021 Trailblazer Award. The award honors the work of an individual or group that has used limited resources in innovative ways to create and maintain digital collections.   

“We are continually inspired by the amazing work going on within member libraries and our friends throughout Texas and the region. [Their work] furthers TDL’s mission of ensuring equitable access to and preservation of digital content of value [for research and teaching], cultural heritage, and institutional memory,” says Kristi Park, executive director of TDL. “We are honored to play a part in facilitating that work. The TDL Awards are one of the ways that we recognize how we all benefit from these efforts going on within individual institutions and organizations.”

This year, TDL saw the highest number of award nominations yet, adds communications manager Lea Deforest. “The Awards committee was composed of librarians and archivists from the Texas Digital Library consortium and friends.” The award winners were honored on May 25 in a virtual ceremony during the annual Texas Conference on Digital Libraries.

TDL is a collaborative consortium with 23 member organizations. It was founded in 2005, and is open to small and large colleges, public and private universities, and academic medical centers.     

Doyle responded to the news of his award with surprise. “The TDL generally only considers libraries or heritage institutions for their awards, and here I am, not an employee of a library, winning the award as an individual. So I think this is very cool, and quite an honor.”

The JD Doyle Archives (JDDoyleArchives.org) is the culmination of 20 years of work in preserving three different categories of LGBTQ history: queer music, Texas LGBTQ history, and Texas LGBTQ obituaries. His multiple websites contain over 18,000 pages of content. Doyle was also recognized in 2019 by the Library of Congress when they selected the JD Doyle Archives for inclusion in their national LGBTQ-studies collection. 

Queer Music Heritage

Doyle archived 580 hours of music as the producer of Queer Music Heritage, a local radio show running from January 2000 until March 2015. The archive covers almost every genre of music, and documents the presence of LGBTQ musicians in hundreds of commercial recordings. It also displays images of the artists, their albums, CDs, cassette tapes, and even 78 rpm records dating back to the 1920s. 

In a way, the music archive also tells the broader story of LGBTQ history—coming out, celebrating Pride, and mourning loved ones lost to AIDS. Special attention is given to women’s music and transgender artists. There is also extensive information on pioneering female impersonators, including a discography of singing drag queens. Doyle has also included a wide variety of drag scrapbooks, sheet music, club programs, postcards, and memorabilia.  

The music archive also features QMH101.com, a special project that teachers can use as a study guide or lesson plan. Several professors teaching LGBTQ history courses have utilized this educational resource.  

Houston LGBT History

In 2014, Doyle launched his Houston LGBT History website. This constantly expanding resource, focusing mostly on Houston history but with ample material of statewide interest, includes back issues of LGBTQ publications from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and other Texas cities. 

Among Doyle’s most ambitious digitizing efforts is his online collection of all 1,518 issues of the statewide magazine This Week in Texas (1975–2013), which covered gay life in the state for almost four decades. 

Other sections of the website cover LGBTQ publications, political events, Pride celebrations, nightlife, businesses, organizations, and the arts. Thousands of clippings from various publications, organized chronologically, enable research in many areas of Texas queer culture. 

The LGBT History website also hosts The Banner Project, which is both a pop-up museum of Houston LGBTQ history and an independent online resource. Project producers Sara Fernandez, Kirk Baxter, and JD Doyle have created almost 50 striking and informative banners that are displayed annually at the University of Houston and at other local galas and events. The banner images (and essays about each banner’s content) can be found at HoustonWeHaveHistory.org

Texas Obituary Project

Doyle’s third extensive (and growing) resource is his Texas Obituary Project, a searchable database for LGBTQ obituaries from gay publications and other sources. Sadly, over half of the almost 7,500 digitized obituaries document AIDS as the cause of death. Doyle has coded each obituary with search tags such as AIDS, violence, Black, Latino, female, and COVID. 

In 2018, the Houston Chronicle published a front-page article on Doyle’s obituary database, capturing the poignant stories of friends and family members who have used the online resource in hopes of finding closure as they mourn their LGBTQ loved ones.

Check out JD Doyle’s history archives online at houstonlgbthistory.org.

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Brandon Wolf

Brandon Wolf is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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