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Ridgefield Oral History Project: Preserving Ridgefield’s LGBTQIA+ Stories

With a generous grant from CT Humanities, Ridgefield Historical Society is recording Ridgefield's LGBTQIA+ oral histories, preserving stories and increasing civic PRIDE.

Ridgefield residents of all ages are participating in Ridgefield’s Oral History Project. This two year endeavor which started in the fall of 2023 is a collaboration of the Ridgefield Historical Society, Ridgefield CT Pride, and student volunteers from Ridgefield High School. The goal of the project is to record, preserve, and share Ridgefield LGBTQIA+ stories, which are underrepresented in the Ridgefield Historical Society’s collection; to foster intergenerational conversation; and increase civic pride and awareness.

Stephen Bartkus, Project Director and Executive Director of the Ridgefield Historical Society, says, “Representation and visibility matter, especially for marginalized populations. This is an exciting project that raises awareness by documenting a previously neglected area of our town’s history.” Ridgefield CT Pride Chairperson Alisa Trachtenberg adds, “Capturing oral histories empowers people while saying, ‘we see you!’ The response has been overwhelmingly positive and validating.”

Ridgefielders past and present are invited to share personal experiences related to LGBTQIA+ life in Ridgefield with student volunteer interviewers, who thus far have recorded 15 interviews with 20 individuals including local artists, business owners, parents, grandparents, and more. Dr. Robin Collins, Project Manager and owner of The Literacy Barn, where the interviews are taking place, and Julie Henderson, Ridgefield High School English Teacher and GSA Club Advisor, have been instrumental in the success of the initiative. This project, which is being advised by LGBTQIA+ historian Dr. Susan Ferentinos, is made possible in part through a generous grant from CT Humanities.

Interviews will be professionally transcribed and entered in the Historical Society’s online catalog, accessible at ridgefieldhistoricalsociety.org, along with over 200 already existing oral history interviews focused on WWII Veterans, Growing up in Ridgefield, the COVID Pandemic, and the Ridgefield History Club. The interviews will also be preserved in the Connecticut Digital Archive. The richly unique stories are a powerful way to foster intergenerational connections and preserve Ridgefielders’ memories.

At Ridgefield Pride in the Park on June 1st, the student volunteers shared their great progress thus far and recorded stories on-site at the Society’s pop-up tent.  The volunteers will continue interviewing through June 2025, when the project will culminate in a celebration.

The Ridgefield Oral History Project is a unique endeavor to create an overview of LGBTQIA+ life in Ridgefield over time. For more information, to sign up to share your story, or help us raise the $6,255 cash match required for this project grant, please click here:

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