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Volunteer Testimonials

Lambda Archives has a thriving student volunteer program in collaboration with San Diego State University, in addition to other volunteers.

Volunteer at the Archives

What our Volunteers have to say about the Archives:

From Nicole
HISTORY110 T, TH 2:00-3:15
Semester 1, 2013
November 4, 2013

My Experience at the LAMBDA Archives

When I found out that I had the option to either read an intense and most likely very long history book that I probably couldn’t connect with, or go volunteer for twenty hours at a place filled with gay history it didn’t take me long to choose which I would rather do. I am eighteen years old and am a gay women who’s known she was different since I was about six years old. My Dad has always told me that I was the boy he never had, but the daughter better than any boy he would’ve ever gotten. I am the type of person that likes to experience new things and learn new and exciting information through adventures. Whether it be from a book adventure on my own or stepping into a new place outside my comfort zone. This opportunity to volunteer at the LAMBDA archives was definitely outside my comfort zone, but that’s precisely why I was so excited to embrace it, and dive right into my newfound adventure.

My expectations of this experience were a lot different than what I actually received. When I was first looking into getting involved while emailing Kelly, I thought well maybe I will meet some members of the gay community of San Diego, maybe I will see what my potential future could look like as a gay women in society, maybe I’ll meet some students from SDSU that are from my generation, and I will be able to see what kind of gay people there are at my college. I also thought that maybe unlike high school I will find a place where I fit in my freshman year rather than my senior year. Although, I never thought that something seemingly so minute would effect the person I wanted to be when I got older, volunteering at the archives gave me a new perspective on being a gay woman. Through out my time at the archives I met amazing people that truly showed me how diverse people really are. Through out my time at the archives I did in fact meet people from the gay community such as Tony Atkins and other elected gay officials. I also meet people who go to SDSU and are members of the Queer Student Union, but I do think that my experience with the people I met had a bigger impact on me than the actual work that I was doing at the archives.

My experience was actually a little rushed in the fact that I have a job, so I could only miss so many days of work. Which meant that I had to get big chunks of hours done at the archives in as little visits as I could, but that did not hinder my intake of my experience at the archives. My first day of work at the archives I was late; on accident I got lost, I walked into the archives for the first time, met Kelly, and some of the other students I was going to be working with through out my visits. I met about six individuals, some there for the same basic reason as me, which was to get out of reading a long boring history book, and others were there just to volunteer because they love archiving. Which I found to be interesting, because I have never met a person who has said they love archiving, but none the less each person had their own story and their own personality. During my hour I was able to get to know some of them, but one person unparticular stood out to me. In respect to her we shall call her Becky. Becky was a more masculine looking girl who had her funky kind of coffee shop style. The first time I saw her I thought to myself “oh man she looks like trouble”. She was, she was so confident in herself, who she was, and she had and this swag like aura about her. She talked to everyone and just made my hours there when I worked with her go by so fast. The importance though of Becky to my experience was our conversations and what she asked me. One day when we were working together, she said “Nicole, what is your preferred gender pronoun?” I thought what in the world is she talking about, I have never been good at English either so I’m thinking something grammatical, I’m all confused so she said to me “what do you go by? He, She?” This really threw me for a loop because no one has ever asked me that before, ever. I didn’t know how to answer with out being sarcastic, I said “she I go by she” and she said, “okay that’s awesome”. It didn’t hit me tell later when I was thinking about how odd of a question it was to me. Yet then it dawned on me how amazing it was that she actually asked me that. Because, what if I had preferred something else and was to scared to ask anyone to call me by that gender pronoun, but that simple question opened a new sense of opportunity and comfort to be who you want to be. I think it is amazing how far we have come as people to be that considerate of some ones internal feelings, and give them the chance to be no one but who they feel they are on the inside, not just the outside.

Along with my experience with Becky, I was able to learn about the path that the gay community has taken through out history not only in San Diego but in America, and how much we have fought for our rights as people to be treated with every same respect that any heterosexual couple or person would. In some of my visits I was able to work on an Ephemera project. Which consisted of going through old files they had, reading the pamphlets, cards, newsletters, etc. what ever they had. I got to sort the items out into the best possible place for them to be archived. What was awesome about this was that while reading I saw snippets of history. I saw all the different pamphlets on the Prides in San Diego, who performed, and supports them. I saw letters declaring October as national gay pride month and remembrance pictures of people who had lost their lives to AID’s. Seeing these parts of history gave me a sense of pride in who I am. This gay community is full of fighters, who have not succumb to years worth of put-downs. They have band together like a family and pushed through to get gay marriage legal, spouse benefits, and many other accomplishments. I am so glad I can call myself a part of this family now.

Getting the opportunity to learn about what feels like my history blew my mind, because before the archives I had never herd of the Stonewall Riots or that October was gay pride month, or a lot of other cool things on gay civil rights. If I could go back I would do nothing differently with my experience. I am so happy that I was given this opportunity to be apart of something bigger than my small world. I cannot wait to stay involved with the gay community of San Diego from now on, because of my amazing experience with the LAMBDA archives.

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From Jack H.

December 12, 2008

Volunteering at Lambda Archives for the past five months has not only been an eye-opening experience, but an experience that will be with me for the rest of my life. I was able to learn about LGBT history that I was never aware of and I met a lot of fun people. Also I was affected positively in my personal life by my work and time spent at the Lambda Archives.

One of my first days volunteering for Lambda Archives was spent at the Pride Festival tent. I had never been to a LGBT Pride Parade or Festival, even though I am Transgender. Never in my life had I ever been to any public gathering that was so positive and full of life. At the Pride Festival I didn't see anyone arguing or shouting negative comments. No matter where I traveled in the Pride Festival I was constantly met with smiles, laughter, and joy. Hands down it was the calmest and most positive gathering I have ever been to. It was an amazing experience for me personally because I was able to interact with people within my LGBT Community and I felt so accepted and understood that from that day on I wanted to play more of an active role within the community.

Due to my positive experience I decided to join the Greek sorority chapter, Gamma Rho Lambda (which is a queer based social sorority), in order to be more involved in my LGBT Community both at San Diego State University and also within the city of San Diego. My pledge class and I were able to complete our community service pledge-requirement by volunteering at Lambda Archives one afternoon. I was extremely happy to share my experience with them and they had a lot of fun and really enjoyed learning more about their LGBT history in San Diego. Not only were my fellow pledges and I affected by volunteering, but we were able to have a positive impact on other non-LGBT SDSU students who were volunteering for the semester. We were all very proud of ourselves and felt that we had made a difference that moved toward acceptance and equality.

Lambda Archives is filled with a lot of great people who take the time out of their schedules to dedicate themselves to the continued preservation of LGBT history and I really appreciated that it's not just people who identify with the LGBT community. For being someone who is from the LGBT community it is just wonderful to have people of all different sexual orientations and preferences working together to save LGBT history. I think it shows how far LGBT acceptance has come and it's a reflection of how the times are changing for the better. The people I met were not only welcoming of my presence but reached out with friendship and in turn, I have made a lot of friends. I had a lot of fun working directly with Kelly on news clippings and Julie with Pride Festival displays. Marc and I had some good little computer related chats now and then. While Karla and I worked side by side on different projects, we discussed our love of traveling.

Now it wouldn't be Lambda Archives without little random events occurring. I will always fondly remember volunteering during the summer when the Diversionary Theatre was performing the gay World War II love stories play. The actors and actresses were all very kind and full of life running around between the stage and the rehearsal and makeup rooms. I miss sitting in the back room cutting out newspaper clippings and hearing the performance resonating in through the walls. Another fun event was when the plumbing behind some of the file cabinets began leaking and Kelly, James, Schorsch, and I had to act quickly to save Lambda Archives from flooding. We had to stop everything we had been working on and move the metal file cabinets and everything on them then call the Diversionary Theatre and try to get someone to come up and look at the leak. Some where in there, James and I got very geeky with physics (which then alerted us to each other being computer majors) and tried to decipher the water drop rate, so that we could know how many times the small bucket under the plumbing had to be changed over the course of 24 hours.

While volunteering at Lambda Archives, I was placed in charge of the clippings project. I remember Kelly telling me how the clippings project had been neglected and needed a lot of care and I was unsure of how much I could help. Over time I just ended up taking the poor little clippings project under my wing and without realizing it I put myself in charge of clippings. Kelly really helped me get a grasp on clippings and what stage it was at and where it should be, but then she let the reins go and trusted me to take over. I think that shows a lot about Kelly’s character and I appreciated that she trusted me with the responsibility of taking over clippings. Even though I was in charge she was always close by to help if I had a question or needed some advice.

The clippings project wasn’t too horrible when I first started working on it. Its main problem was a lack of structure. The entire process from cutting the clippings to eventually putting them in the binders just had to have some more procedures added. The first step of cutting the clippings had a great structure but it was when you went to the second step of putting the information on the top of the page, was where it started getting jumbled. Kelly and I ended up developing a way of having a spread sheet in Excel with all the information regarding the clippings and then importing it into Word so that each clippings entry was a single page and then all of the clippings were able to be printed at once. This really helped speed up and structure that second step of clippings.

 For the third and fourth steps, which were categorizing the clippings and then transferring them into the binders, it had become more work than that was required, so I outlined a new structure for their process. I purchased file holding banker boxes to sort the categorized clippings before they were placed in their respective binders. This made the fourth step more efficient because it minimized the number of times a binder would be pulled from the shelf. By having all the clippings organized by binder, it allowed you to know how many clippings were going into a binder and they could be transferred all at once. Also, this helped gather all of the AIDS clippings with more room for them to grow while we build a binder for them.

Although the master binder outline was good it needed some tweaking in some areas just due to the large amount and increasing variety of LGBT news that has been pouring in. For instance, Kelly and I added two new subsections regarding news outside of California: (1) Other States, (2) Other Countries. There are some other changes that are going to have to be made to the outline when the binders are moved into new binders (trust me, some are on the verge of not being able to close).

I felt very fortunate to be able to have had access to so much LGBT history. Not too long ago I read an article from the 1970’s that talked about Kinsey’s report and I got very excited because I had learned about Kinsey in my History of Sexuality class but outside of that I had never heard of him. All in all, it was a very geeky history moment for me and I proceeded to share it with a couple of other people who were helping me with clippings at the time. Most of them had no idea who I was talking about, but I was glad to teach them something about LGBT history. Also, for me personally this was great because I basically “came out” publicly over the course of the past five months. The clippings project helped me learn about my community’s history and made me extra proud of who I was.

Even though the semester has ended I do plan to continue volunteering at the Lambda Archives. I think I still have a lot I can contribute and I kind of want to get some closure on the clippings project (or it could be because I’m slightly OCD when it comes to organizing). Also, now that I am a member of Gamma Rho Lambda, my fellow brothers and sisters are looking forward to working more closely in the future with the Lambda Archives to preserve our LGBT history for future prosperity. I had a lot fun and I’m really glad that I became a part of Lambda Archives this semester.

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From Daniel G

December , 2008

When I was on my way to The Archive for the first time I didn’t really know what to expect. I felt very intimidated and out-of-place. I had this stereotypical and unrealistic idea in my head that I was entering a place full of exotic and overly exaggerated sexual expression or behavior. I pictured a place where the only thing on everyone’s mind was both their sexuality, and mine. But when I finally arrived, met Kelly and actually learned what The Archive was all about my first impression was something completely different. I wasn’t thinking about who was gay and who wasn’t, and neither was anyone else. I felt ignorant and closed minded. Everyone working there was warm, friendly, and motivated to help with the enormous amount of work we were faced with.

Although I try to deny it, homosexuality is still somewhat foreign to me and the environment I grew up in. If not anything else, this assignment taught me to go into things without making judgments, to experience things for what they are, and not to make assumptions before hand. This is truly a powerful lesson, one I am glad I can take away from this class.

From Alan S.

Special Studies Student from SDSU   12-27-08

Audio Visual Intern with Lambda Archives: Final Paper

For the fall semester I was the audio/visual intern for the lambda archives and received valuable experience not only in a technical aspect but with the LGBT community.  As the audio visual intern my duties were maintaining the camera and all its equipment, editing and backing up video recordings taken, arranging times for interviews with both the interviewer and interviewee, recording interviews, demonstrations, the pride festival(where I also helped set up the Lambda tent), Nicky’s awards, Honoree awards ceremony at the Center and the gala. Below I will explain in further depths what I did, what I learned and what I felt about the experience.

The camera and its equipment consists of an Sony HDD camera, a remote tri-pod, a wireless lapel mike with receiver, a hand mike, an extra battery, charger and docking station and all connecting wires as an RCA or component medium. My personal equipment and what I used to do all my editing/producing consisted of a high performance XPS laptop, an external terabyte hard-drive used for cache and preview files(more important than you might think, Adobe Premiere CS3 editing software, Adobe After Effects CS3, Several video converting programs and a few blank DVDs(like those matter). Maintenance involved keeping the camera lens scratch and oil free, cleaning battery contacts, backing up video files to open up space on the camera hard drive for future use by other members of the lambda staff, ensuring that all batteries were charged, keeping inventory on camera connecting wires, keeping inventory and new batteries with wireless mike and properly storing all equipment pieces in an orderly fashion.

During interviews I had to set up all equipment, check sound, light and white balances, and properly assess backgrounds and mid shooting angles to provide the best angles and picture while also moving the camera. During the Nicky’s and Honoree Awards ceremony I was responsible for setting up all equipment and working with the present sound man to hook up audio while being a moving camera so as to add life and a complete recording of the event. During the Pride festival I come early to set up the tent with all its hangings, take video of our senator’s arrival, speech and interaction with visitors, and help Marc (technical supervisor of Lambda Archives) with the projector to enrich the experience of visitors. Finally my duties at the Gala were to provide a live feed for the ceremony to be projected over the stage, created and edited footage about the no on 8 rally for opening ceremonies, and help marc switch between video and audio feeds while problem solving a few technical hang-ups to allow marc to watch the equipment. On many occasions I was consulted about possibilities for future video projects and on what would be needed from a videographers stand point. Finally, to end the nitty gritty of this paper, I ruff edited a sample of the honorees for the Lambda Archives board for their input into the creative process.

My experience with the Lambda Archives has taught me more than I thought possible. Before I began my internship I was aware of the LGBT community and had a few friends that belonged to it but was severely undereducated about the richness of the culture and the standing in the community. I had no idea there were clubs, community help centers, unions etc. Being aware and knowing are two completely different things. As an intern I learned about the rich and long history of the LGBT community in San Diego and about many of the community heroes who have paved the way for the younger generation. The fight for equality has been extensive but seen fast growth in comparison to past civil rights issues. The things I have learned have mostly been about people’s personal history and their contributions to the community. These people(Cleve Jones, Chris Kehoe, Stephen Padilla, Bob Lynn, Regina Reinhart, Bridget Willson, Stan Lewis, Matt Stevens, Ben Dillingham, Doug Moore, Tom Reise, Fritz Klein, Ted Weathers, Kevin Tilden,  Delores Jacobs and Teresa Oyos) have done more for the community as a whole than any person I’ve ever known. I also hadn’t realized how many LGBT community members were part of our political system in key ways. People like Stephen Padilla who was previously mayor of Chula Vista Came out during his time in office and many others that came from all walks of life. I found that the LGBT was an extremely accepting community that had no problem with my participation and assistance even though I was straight. This kind of acceptance instilled in me a more passionate commitment to equal rights for not only the LGBT’s but for  any repressed people. Living here in California somewhat dampens the contact with racism or lack of acceptance but after the 2008 prop 8 passed I was able to see just how backwards and hypocritical most of our state still is. On a technical aspect I have become more than proficient at balancing levels and developing a producer’s eye when recording. I also spent many hours pounding my head against a wall trying to work with all our different video and audio formats and have learned invaluable editing knowledge that can only be acquired by working through those format problems.

As a program it teaches its interns to work autonomously and manage time or the intern fails at completing their duties. Frank Nobiletti was a great support and always kept me in a positive frame of mind even when things went wrong. An improvement to the program would be timing. At times some things would be a little too short notice. Flexibility is important but the video process isn’t usually something that can be rushed or put together on the fly. The finish product suffers terribly when things like that happen and I go whole nights without sleeping trying to edit or produce videos that take over 11 hours to complete. These short notices didn’t happen often and really didn’t bother me but I was asked to look for ways to improve the program and that’s the one thing that made me sweat and a little agitated. In the end it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had and I believe that it has changed me as a person and made me better.

From Tony:

I was unsure if I wanted to volunteer for the archives when I first heard about them. This was mainly due to the fact that eleven hours had to be contributed to the archives in order to write this term paper. After completing my hours, I feel like my original doubts were selfish and self-centered. Not only did volunteering at the archives open my eyes to the LGBT community, but to also the power of volunteering. In the past, I have volunteered my time at a 6th grade camp and as a baseball coach, but I feel like my time at the archives gave me a better perspective of the community where the other programs only gave me a small chance to help children. After completing my hours, I feel like I want to volunteer my time more. This was a great realization of mine when I learned, through Lambda archives, that giving your time to a worthy cause is one of the greatest things you can do. The best part about it is that it is a great option when donations are not possible due to financial constraint.

After completing my hours at the archives, I realized that eleven hours is nothing. I feel like I should, and definitely could, have contributed more. I am definitely thinking about volunteering more of my time, especially at the Gala event or as a Marketing intern, which you mentioned was available. The power of volunteering hit me when I finished my hours at the archives. I realized that by doing small tasks for the archives, I had contributed to the history of the LGBT community, and that was a very powerful feeling. It was a feeling that was full of accomplishment and meaning, and it was all achieved through relatively easy work over a short period of time. I go to class every day and learn many new things, but never do I get the same sense of accomplishment as I did when I volunteered at the archives. It showed me that by offering your time, you can make a huge impact on the program you are volunteering for, or on their overall objective.

Many different deserving organizations need much more people to help them out with whatever huge problem they are facing. This experience showed me that huge community problems are able to be tackled, and it is the work of everyone, not just one person, that can overcome this obstacle. I feel like this ideal can be applied to other large problems such as global warming, habitat destruction, deadly disease, and many other problems. While what I am doing for the organization may be small, it is impacting the whole group. If all of these small contributions are added up, hopefully they can resolve the greater problem. My time at the archives has enlightened me to the power of volunteering. I hope that everyone else that goes through this program can experience something similar. It gave me a much greater outlook on the future and what can become of it through the work of us all.

The projects that the archives needed to be completed did not sound of much interest, but I found that in the end they were very interesting. I did most of my work on the newspaper clippings project. Often times I found myself reading many of the articles before I glued them and copied them. This was a lot of education for me because it opened my eyes to the world of inequality that the LGBT community faced. It was very unsettling to see people treated as second class citizens. My mind was ignorant to the extreme difficulties LGBT people were facing. The experience was very eye opening, and showed me the struggles the gay community has faced, and is still facing to this day. By reading the articles, I was being exposed to what was going on in the world of the gay community. I thought at the beginning that the mundane task of gluing paper to paper would be extremely boring, but found it to be very interesting and educational. I would come into the archives every time excited to see what I was going to learn that day. While this seems like a small task, it feels good to know that I am conserving documents that may be one day looked back upon to uncover past historical information. I hope that one day people will look back at this information and be shocked at how the gay community was treated, similar to the way we look back at slavery with extreme negativity.

I feel that the overall experience of volunteering for the archives was one of the greatest experiences that I will have in my stay at San Diego State. I would absolutely recommend it to any students that take the History 406 class, as well as recommending it to anyone that has some extra time to volunteer. I feel that the incentive of writing a shorter paper after volunteering is a great way to get people to volunteer at the archives if they may be skeptical. I am very glad that I chose to do it. If the incentive would not have been there, I doubt I would have ever volunteered at the archives. Now, looking back, I would have gladly volunteered my time without any of the incentives that were offered. I also hope that this experience opens up the mind of each person that goes through the program. I opened up a whole different side of the community that I never knew existed. This side of the community is one where ordinary people are oppressed just because of their sexual orientation. I deeply hope that anyone that goes through the volunteering will see this as well. I feel that people who are against the LGBT community may be able to have a change of heart after going through the program. The only way I see someone against the gay community volunteering for an archive preserving the gay community’s past is by offering the incentive with the term paper. Thank you for the opportunity, and for finding a way to encourage me to take part in the great experience.

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From Nicole:

I took the option to do ten hours of volunteering at the LAMBDA Archives of San Diego.  It was a great experience.  I am very happy I choose to take this opportunity that was handed to me.  It opened my eyes to a lot of issues that are present in society today for LGBT community members.  At first I approached the situation as an easier way to get a grade for the required paper the class must write during the semester, than having to read a book and write a five page term paper.  After actually volunteering and seeing what and how the archives worked opened my eyes to a beautifully diverse community I never knew existed.

While I volunteered for the archives I did a few tasks, such as preserving newspaper clippings and helping with the mailing out of the invitations to the LGBT Archives Gala that will be held on December 13th.  When I helped preserve newspaper clippings I would sort through various newspaper articles as well as magazine articles and find any sort of LGBT topics that were published.  I would find myself reading about all sorts of different events that are happening with gay marriage or gay rights and so on.  There were even the sad topics, such as discrimination acts happening towards the LGBT community.  All of the articles were fascinating to me.  I never really took the time to sit down and really find out what was happening in this area of society.  I know that is very bad on my part, but the volunteering made me realize what I was missing out on and helped me become aware.

The articles I particularly liked to be read and were very interested in were the articles on gay marriage.  I always knew there was a struggle for the gay community to have equal rights when it came to marriage, but it never really deeply affected me.  I mean I thought it was cruel to not let human beings get married just because they are the same gender.  That was pretty much the extent of my outlook on the gay marriage struggle up until I started volunteering.  As I read the articles on the struggle to make gay marriage legal and be represented fairly and equal to heterosexual marriages I realized that this has been a bigger struggle than I ever realized.  I find it unfair and unjust that two people who love each other can not seal their relationship with sacred vows.  It used to not be ok for a black and white person to get married and it was a very discriminatory thing to do.  Society eventually overcame that struggle, but it is sad that it has now been passed on to gay marriage.  Gay people are human beings like the rest of us and they have the emotion of love and companionship embedded in them as well as the rest of us do.  Something needs to change about this discrimination because it is unfair and cruel.  I am happy that the archives opened my eyes to such a great problem.  The archives made me more knowledgeable on the problem and ready to start doing something more than have an opinion.

None of the tasks that I did were hard in any way.  It was quite enjoyable.  Everyone that worked there was very friendly and was very helpful.  I think the best experience I had at the archives is when I helped prepare the invitation to be mailed out for the gala.  My boyfriend and I helped out that night and we were able to sit down with Professor Nobiletti.  Professor Nobiletti stopped by to help us out with preparing the envelopes and it was a great experience due to the fact that we were able to ask him questions and receive his opinion on current events.  Some things we talked about was the passing of prop 8 and what his opinion was on how it will affect the LGBT community.  We also got to talk to him about the gala that is coming up soon and all of the influential people that were going to attend.  It was a great experience for me, due to the fact that I am a college student and I do not usually get to have such personal time with a professor.

Volunteering at the archives really opened my eyes also to the power of volunteering as a whole.  Not just for a specific cause, but for all organizations.  Every organization is looking for people to help them make a differences even if it has to do with environmental issues, equal rights for all, or even for political issues as well as community organizations to better the community we live in.  Volunteering can be a powerful tool to make a difference, even if it is only for a few hours a week.  I believe that everyone should experience such a great opportunity to help make change occur. 

My time spent at the archives was a great experience.  I learned a lot about the gay community from a lot of articles that have been published.  Some of the topics were good and some were bad, but all in all I believe I am much more knowledgeable on the subject that I was before.  I will hope that for the future classes to come they will be able to share the same sort of experience I did.  The volunteering really makes you feel like you are doing something good for the community and it makes you think more outside the box.  I enjoyed my volunteering so much that I am planning on helping out at the gala that is going to be held by the LGBT Archives.  Even though I have fulfilled my required time I am excited to do more.  That is how much I enjoyed my time at the LGBT Archives.

Volunteer at the Archives

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Lambda Archives of San Diego
(formerly Lesbian and Gay Historical Society of San Diego)
is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation