LGBTQ Archeological Context

By Megan E. Springate


The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks (NHL) programs are place-based and to be included in them, the places (buildings, structures, landscapes, and archeological sites) must still exist. This is a challenge when looking at the history and heritage of historically marginalized populations, who are often located at the edges of society. These are places that become targets of demolition, redevelopment, urban renewal, and gentrification—all of which impact the physical places and force their inhabitants and customers elsewhere. In addition, the further back in time we go, the more likely it is that the buildings and structures that we often associate with historic places are no longer standing and that landscapes have changed (forests grown or cut down, land tilled or left fallow, streets and railroads torn up or built; rivers channelized and mountains razed). Archeology—the study of past peoples and societies through the physical remains they left behind—is one way of studying the marginalized who are often neglected (or are otherwise under- or mis-represented) in the historical record; of learning about the past from physical remains when aboveground structures or landscapes are gone or changed; and of learning about the history of the people who inhabited what we now know as the United States for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.[1] Archeology is especially well-suited to revealing the everyday lives of people as reflected in the ordinary objects of day-to-day life. While documentary records often identify specific individuals, archeology focuses on the aggregate study of people in a place—household members (kin, chosen family, boarders, servants, slaves, etc.), workers in factories and other workplaces, and people in communities. Read more » [PDF 1.7 MB]


[1] Many people are not represented, misrepresented, or underrepresented in historical documents. These include those who did not or could not own property, could not vote, could not serve in the military, were “others,” and/or who did not make news. This includes LGBTQ, two-spirit, women, working classes, children, immigrants, and others.

The views and conclusions contained in the essays are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Part of a series of articles titled LGBTQ America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History.

Last updated: August 16, 2017