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Celebrating 50 years of the Seattle Gay News at the UW's Allen Library

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Piper Davidson
Piper Davidson

Behind the masses of tourists flooding into the Suzzallo reading room lives the Allen Library exhibition space. If, like me, you are able to fight through these crowds, you may find yourself immersed in the history of one of the world's oldest LGBTQ newspapers.

The Seattle Gay News has been serving the Gay community since March 1974, and has had its archives preserved by UW and Washington State Libraries. These archives have allowed the public to dive into the history of the [newspaper], a history that is now on full display.

The exhibition features cutouts and pages from decades' worth of papers, largely organized by themes and key events. A highlight of the exhibit was the early-controversies display, which brought to light the paper's missteps — from sexism to libel lawsuits — in contrast to the largely positive representation in the rest of the exhibit.

While historical and incredibly informative, the exhibit never strays away from a sense of fun. It gets to the core of what the paper has stood for throughout its five decades of publication. It balances hard-hitting journalism with lifestyle columns and feel-good stories.

Another personal favorite was the crossword display, which I tried (and failed) to solve.

The exhibit looks at the paper from two major angles: the history of journalism and the history of Seattle's queer community. The Seattle Gay News has been the [crossroads] of these two unique histories since its inception, and in turn has found itself a key source for historians.

The archives of the Seattle Gay News can be found at multiple UW libraries, as well as at university libraries across the nation.

The Allen Library exhibit will be on display [through] April 12.

Reprinted with permission

The Suzzallo and Allen Libraries are open Sunday 1-8pm, Monday-Thursday 8am-8pm, and Friday 8am-5pm (closed Saturday).