Mapping the Gay Guides (MGG) relies on the Damron Guides, an early but longstanding travel guide aimed at gay men since the early 1960s. An LGBTQ equivalent to the African American “green books,” the Damron Guides contained lists of bars, bathhouses, cinemas, businesses, hotels, and cruising sites in every U.S. state, where gay men could find friends, companions, and sex.
The online mapping project explores different dimensions of American gay life through time, from bars and nightlife, bookstores, cinemas, and churches. Users to the site are able to navigate and investigate the dynamic and sometimes disappearing nature of LGBTQ spaces over time.
By associating geographical coordinates with each location mentioned within the Damron Guides, MGG provides an interface for visualizing the growth of queer spaces in the United States. MGG’s interactive web app includes a series of filters that can be used to interact with the digitized data including narrowing the data down by city or state, choosing to display only certain categories of establishments, or visualizing change using a date slider.
However, MGG also functions as a research tool for studying the culture of queer spaces in American life. Drawing on the digitized data and visualizations from the app, the website includes “vignettes” that offer historical analysis of the changing ways that gay spaces were defined.
The Massachusetts Historical Society will host “Digital Methods for Understanding Historical Travel Guides: A Case Study of the Digital Methodologies behind Mapping the Gay Guides,” a virtual program by Amanda Regan of Clemson University, with comment by Alex Ketchum of McGill University, set for Thursday, February 23rd.
This program will begin at 5 pm, and will be held via Zoom. For more information or to register, click here.