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McLean County Takes LGBTQ+ History Out Of The Closet

Colleen Reynolds
Prairie Pride Coalition President Dave Bentlin speaks at the Pride month kickoff rally June 1, 2019.

The McLean County Museum of History is teaming up with the Prairie Pride Coalition to bring an untold piece of local history out of the closet.

The coalition’s president, Dave Bentlin, said Friday’s History Out Of The Closet event is an opportunity to record and archive experiences of McLean County’s LGBTQ+ community.

“We had worried that as all of us got older, that a lot of the history that we have accumulated would be lost with us,” Bentlin said on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

The Museum of History provides a safe place to store LGBTQ+ stories and materials, he said.

Museum Curator Susan Hartzold said she hopes Friday’s History Out Of The Closet will start the collection.

“I’ve just felt like it’s been a huge void for a very long time, and this event is really a kickoff of what I hope will be a very big project,” she said.

Hartzold said the museum will also be seeking public input for the archives. Local LGBTQ+ community members are able to submit materials or share oral archives of their experience living in McLean County.

Bentlin shared stories of present and past community members, one pointing out famous early members of the gay rights movement who visited Bloomington-Normal like Barbara Gittings, Frank Kemeny, and Allen Ginsberg.

“It’s interesting that alumni are coming back and telling us about these things,” Bentlin said. “And that’s what we’re hoping for, that alums come back, that community members who used to live here or who still live here, can share those stories with us so that we can build a fuller picture of what it’s like to be in this community being openly LGBT.”

The event falls on the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the McLean County Museum of History.

You can also listen to the full interview:

WGLT's full interview.

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