Lehigh University associate professor of English Mary Foltz has been awarded a Scholars and Society Fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to collaborate with regional LGBTQ organizations to build their archival collections, expanding awareness of the history and contributions of these communities.
Foltz will serve as the first scholar-in-residence at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pa. She begins working with the center's Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive and leading public humanities initiatives in September 2021. Foltz is one of 12 awardees of the fellowship program, which provides opportunities for faculty to conduct research projects while in residence with community-based organizations.
The Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive is a rich resource for exploring the value of regional LGBTQ political, social and cultural organizations as they contribute to national movements for equity, Foltz said. The collection, which includes publications, organizational records, personal papers, oral histories and artifacts, documents local and regional LGBTQ life and activism. The materials provide opportunities to expand understanding of such history and organizations beyond major cities like New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, Foltz said.
"I am truly honored to receive the ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowship and to have the opportunity to work with Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center staff next year in the archives," she said. "During the fellowship year, I will offer a variety of public-facing pieces that explore the value of regional LGBTQ history and will work on academic articles about the unique contributions of Lehigh Valley LGBTQ organizations."
The fellowship builds upon Foltz's existing collaborations with Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, where she leads a community reading group on LGBTQ memoir in connection with her work with Lehigh's South Side Initiative. The South Side Initiative promotes sustained research collaborations among Lehigh faculty, staff and students, area residents, local artists, activists, community leaders and public officials.
"Mary's award is recognition of her deep commitment to forging connections with community resources that make tangible differences in the lives of the people they serve," said Robert Flowers, Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh. "Her work illustrates the importance of public-facing research in the humanities and how the work we do in the college leaves lasting impressions throughout the region and benefits the communities in which we live."
Foltz, who is director of Lehigh's South Side Initiative, is a member of Lehigh's Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and teaches post-1945 U.S. literature, with an interest in LGBTQ writers of the post-WWII period.
In historians' and scholars' focus on major metropolitan areas when exploring LGBTQ history, contributions of rural or smaller urban centers often are missed, she said.
"We need to share knowledge about the role of small urban centers in national movements such as the homophile movement, the gay liberation movement, the trans liberation movement, AIDS activism and the fight for Marriage Equality, as well as other topics that matter to diverse LGBTQ groups of people, such as Black Lives Matter, immigration issues or economic justice issues," Foltz said. "That small urban center story is something that scholars should be working on nationally in their own local communities, partnering with local organizations to co-produce knowledge about urban and rural contributions to national movements."
Her work with the archive will culminate in a public exhibition of regional LGBTQ history and continue her partnership with Bradbury-Sullivan to conduct oral histories that contribute to the archive and highlight LGBTQ voices. "In the next year we will continue this work to address the gap in our historical understanding of Lehigh Valley and the contributions that LGBTQ people have made to the communities here," Foltz said.
The archive includes 17 collections and is offered to the community in partnership between Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Trexler Library at Muhlenberg College.
"The Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive is among our fastest-growing programs at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center," center Executive Director Adrian Shanker said. "We are so excited to enhance the impact of the community archive with our first-ever scholar in residence."
The ACLS Fellowship program honors scholarship in the humanities and humanistic social sciences with the capacity to make significant contributions to knowledge in their fields, supporting six to 12 months of full-time research and writing. The program awards fellowships to individual scholars working in the humanities and related social sciences. Institutions and individuals contribute to the ACLS Fellowship Program and its endowment, including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Council's college and university associates, and former Fellows and individual friends of ACLS.
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