The history of Skeivt arkiv

From idea to first acquisition

When ethnologist and cultural scientist Tone Hellesund started working as a reference librarian at Bergen University Library in 2012, she came up with the idea for Skeivt arkiv. In October the same year she helped create the event "What is queer culture and LGBT culture - and how can this culture be preserved?" in Bergen. Amongst the participants was long time gay activist Kim Friele, who at the event announced her decision to donate her personal archive to the University of Bergen. In June 2013, Friele attended a formal contract-signing ceremony with the University, represented by Principal Sigmund Grønmo and Library Director Ole Gunnar Evensen, handing over ownership of her archive. September that same year, her archive was packed up and collected from her home at Geilo and Haugastøl, and transported to the University Special Collections archival storage. 

Building the archive

The active development of Skeivt arkiv from and idea to a functioning archive and documentation centre started autumn of 2013 and spring 2014. The first oral history interviews were conducted, and work on the archive's websites commenced. During this period it was mainly Tone Hellesund and reference librarian Simon Mitternacht who worked on the project, but they were assisted by other people at the University Library, as well as volunteers.

Thanks to internal support from the University and the University Library of Bergen, as well as external funding from Arts Council Norway and the National Library, the first staff members were hired summer and fall of 2014. This was the start of a three year project period.

During 2013 and 2014 several other personal and organisational archives have been donated to Skeivt arkiv, and have continued to be handed in as a result of dedicated and targeted informational work and actively seeking out organisations and persons who have archive material. In October 2014 Skeivt arkiv's reference group convened for the first time, and in November the same year Hellesund started a new position as Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Bergen. While she has continued to work with Skeivt arkiv, hands on as well as through her teaching and research, Runar Jordåen took over the full time leadership of Skeivt arkiv when Hellesund left the University Library.

Memory of the World

December 1st 2014 Kim Friele's archive was included in Norway's documentary heritage list, the Norwegian section of UNESCOs Memory of the World Register.

Offical opening

Autumn 2014 and spring 2015 the staff worked on creating archival catalogs for the archives that had been donated, developing websites and writing content, and digitizing primary sources for online availability. April 15th 2015 the archive officially opened with a half day seminar where amongst others National Archivist Inga Bolstad, University of Bergen Principal Dag Rune Olsen and Kim Friele all spoke about the importance of preserving Norway's LGBT history. Since the official opening Skeivt arkiv's collections have grown rapidly, with more than 40 new private and organisational archives added. Skeivt arkiv was also awarded "Homofrydprisen" during Oslo Pride 2015 for their work in preserving Norway's queer history, and University of Bergen were awarded "Company of the Year" during the Bergen Rainbow Days for their continued support of Skeivt arkiv.

Permanent funding

November 23rd 2015 the government released their budget negotiation settlement for 2016, in which Skeivt arkiv had been awarded 5 million Norwegian kroner, a result of the active role Venstre took in securing funding for the archive, as well as the Proposal of economic support for Skeivt arkiv from representatives in opposition parties Ap, Sv and Sp, which was proposed in June 2015. After a long struggle for a secure future for Skeivt arkiv, Minister for Culture Linda Helleland Hofstad announced that a united Storting (Norwegian Parliament) was in agreement that it is "a national responsibility to collect and preserve archives concerning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans* persons".

From 2016, Skeivt arkiv is permanently funded, and will continue to collect, preserve and communicate Norwegian and Scandinavian LGBTQ+ history.