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In February, UK Libraries welcomed UK geography PhD candidate Jack Swab for a discussion of his new exhibit, “Guides for Queer Folks: Travel Guides, Maps, and Materiality,” now on display at our Special Collections Research Center.

Including travel guides, maps, magazines, postcards, and advertising from the 1930s to the mid 2000s, “Guides for Queer Folks” examines the utility of queer geographic information highlighting how the physical arrangement of queer spatial media and the work taken to preserve them reveal the politics and perils of the past. 

"I'm hoping that the broader campus and Lexington community will be able to gain some new insight into how perilous queer life was through these guides. There are certainly still challenges today, but I think that the materiality of these guides drives home how essential these guides were for the formation of queer community that we enjoy today," shared Swab.

A geographer fascinated by the relationship between human geography and cartography, Swab received his BS degree in Geography at Penn State, and Master’s degrees in Geography and Library Science from the University of Kentucky (UK). Swab is currently a PhD candidate in the geography department at UK and serves as Vice Chair for the American Association of Geographers Cartography Specialty Group. 

“One of the best parts of working with Jack was being able to see exhibition design through a beginner's lens again. Jack got me thinking about different ways to approach planning for the design and layout of the displayed materials that I would not have otherwise,” shared Rare Books librarian Colleen Barrett. “I'm hoping that the greater community is able to see how books don't have to look a certain way to be considered "rare" or hold significant intellectual value as material objects.”

“Guides for Queer Folks” was created to celebrate Swab’s second prize win for the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of American (ABAA) National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest in 2020. His winning entry, “Gay Spaces: Travel Guides and Maps for the LGBTQ Community, 1969 – 2001” sought to document gay spaces that sustain community and a larger movement throughout the years.

The National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest is jointly administered by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABBA), the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies (FABS), the Grolier Club, and the Center for the Book and Rare books and Special Collections Division (the Library of Congress).

“Guides for Queer Folks” will be on display in the Special Collections Research Center lobby and Great Hall of the Margaret I. King Library through April 7.