Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony
Reviewed by: Matt P. and Ostap K.
Review started: February 16, 2021
Review finished: April 25, 2021
Data and Sources
- Oral histories and testimonies
- Blog and podcast
- Original audio and video recordings
- Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony (ALOT) was founded in 2010
- Materials are housed in Special Collections and Rare Books at Simon Fraser University
- One can contribute one’s own experiences by way of creating an account and uploading a valid oral history interview
- Interviews can be rated and tagged; interviews can also be browsed by way of these tags
- From the About ALOT page: “ALOT accepts contributions of individual oral histories but also accepts donations of collections of archival records, which may include complete fonds or individuals’ collections of relevant materials.” (“fond” in this case refers to a complete collection of records from a given, non-individual source)
- ALOT digitizes and makes available online oral histories and testimonies
- ALOT provides hyperlinks to other institutions in Canada, the United States and in other parts of the world which have similar collections
- ALOT’s interviews contain metadata, which can be helpful in connecting them to other material on the site.
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- ALOT is supported (and seemingly at least partially hosted) by Simon Fraser University
- Further information not prominently displayed on site
- Some materials (for instance, “Hidden from Historians: Preserving Lesbian Oral History in Canada”) at least have some passages translated into French
The Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony (ALOT) was founded in 2010 for the purposes of preserving oral history, specifically that of same-gender attracted (SGA) women. The project operates out of Simon Fraser University Library's Special Collections and Rare Books. The project’s main goal is to “digitize and make available online oral histories and testimony of same-sex and same-gender attracted women, inclusive of Two Spirit, queer, bisexual, and lesbian women, transmen, and others.” The vast majority of the site’s content is in the format of archived interviews: interviews, especially those with minimal editing, are excellent sources.
The Bridging the Gap project’s initiative mentions that “Two Spirit, lesbian, and queer experience is easily erased from history,” and thus the project is attempting to use memory and recording to remedy that. This page serves as something of a call to action, stating that the project “[needs the reader’s] help to document and preserve” such experiences. Notably, another goal of this project is to expand ALOT’s boundaries further outside of Canada, branching (or “bridging”) out to the rest of the world. The importance of this is that as long as ALOT focuses on archiving only Canadian experiences, it risks alienating content that could potentially be useful to its stated goal.
ALOT continues to accept donations, and the institution looks for not only oral testimonies but for the general archival collections as well. Later, some of these materials that were not “born-digital” might be digitized. However, at time of writing, the majority of materials donated to ALOT are “the original audio or video recordings of oral history interviews.”
One can search material on the website using the following options: by collection, by topics, by community tags, by all interviews, and by rated content. (It’s worth admitting that one rarely sees this option—the option of rating archival materials may appear unusual at first glance.) The site also has a page that lists collections with restricted access/protected content. Additionally, the “browse” section of the website’s functionality makes it very easy for one to locate content that one has yet to see, but that may be helpful for research or just general interest.
The most significant issue with the site is that many of the listed interviews lack dates. While the interviews are interesting and generally of good quality, the addition of more consistent dating could make them more useful as references or research sources and could also grant them valuable context. HIST 451 Fall 2019 is a solid example of this, both in terms of being an interesting project, and in terms of the aforementioned issue: out of the six interviews present, there is one date and location present among them.