Hear Our Stories: An MMSt Capstone Project
By: Harkamal Ajrha, Julia Barclay, and Sarah Cozzarin
Hello listeners, welcome to the Hear Our Stories Podcast, a podcast funded by the City of Waterloo Museum for the people of Kitchener-Waterloo! We – Harkamal, Julia, and Sarah – will be your hosts as we share stories from the 2SLGBTQ+ and Queer community in the KW Region!
Did that sound good? Maybe we’ll drop the podcast voice… for now.
*chill and relaxed academic voice*
The Hear Our Stories Podcast is one of this year’s capstone projects for the Master of Museum Studies program that we have the distinct honour of putting together in partnership with The City of Waterloo Museum (check out their exciting new website). The project began as an oral history initiative meant to collect histories from the 2SLGBTQ+ community in KW to improve and enrich the museum’s collection – but the three of us took it a step further by turning it into a public podcast series (all the credit for this idea goes to the incredible Sarah Cozzarin)!
Thanks to the trust of Karen VandenBrink, the manager of the City of Waterloo Museum, we’ve had a lot of freedom to shape the project to our own goals and values – avoiding damage-based research (for more on damage versus desire-based research, see Eve Tuck’s open letter), building trust with our guests, prioritizing the collection of QTPOC and Two-Spirit stories, and making this partnership beneficial to all of the stakeholders we’ve prioritized (folks within the Queer community and those who support the community in KW). We have all agreed that the success of this project comes from fostering an environment where our guests feel safe and comfortable discussing their stories so that we (your hosts) can share them with a public that needs to hear and learn from them. We are not concerned with the number of listeners we reach, but rather with the relationships we build with our guests.
Some of the steps we’ve taken as a group to strive toward these goals involve collaboration with our guests to write their interview questions, taking additional EDI training as a group, and paying honouraria to each of our guests for their time. A lot of the trust building that we’ve done has stemmed from creating a fully transparent interview with our guests and building a contract with many stages of tiered consent so each guest has a say in the means of their episode’s publication, the copyright of their episode, and the future use of its content by the City of Waterloo Museum. Our prioritization of QTPOC and Two-Spirit voices has also been at the forefront of our call to participants, making it clear that this project wants to prioritize racialized queer stories. The response to our cold calls has been overwhelmingly positive and we have pulled together an incredible group of folks to speak with. And while these episodes are certainly not exhaustive of the many queer voices in KW and Waterloo Region, we hope that we’ve contributed to the work that has been and is currently being done in the Region to platform this community (see the end matter of this article for a list of organizations that have been doing this incredible and necessary work).
As we write this small article (in early April 2022), we are in the process of conducting our interview recording sessions and furiously editing episodes and, let us tell you, dear listener, it has been an honour to speak with each of our guests. The three of us are taking turns as host, tech support, and editor. But, regardless of the position we take for each episode, we are in awe of our guests and cannot wait to share their stories with you. Some of our guests include comedians and performers from Rainbow Reels, a Two-Spirit transfemme woman from the Land Back Camp, a journalist and a queer interviewee that haven’t seen each other in 25 years since the former interviewed the latter in the 90s, and Black queer anti-racism advocates. We don’t want to spoil too much, so we hope this is enough of a teaser to start building the anticipation as we gear up to start publishing our episodes in Pride Month of 2022.
Before we sign off, though, it must be said that the foundation upon which we’ve built a safe space for our guests started with forming that relationship amongst ourselves – your hosts. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with a group that has been incredibly supportive throughout this project. This also comes from the trust and encouragement of our host institution, the City of Waterloo Museum, and its manager, Karen. Without the initial confidence boost gained from Karen seeing us as equals and partners in this project, we wouldn’t have come so far in trusting ourselves and our own instincts with this work. With that baseline, the three of us were able to simultaneously prioritize the aforementioned values and trust each other in our abilities to achieve them. It has been so fantastic watching all of our planning come into fruition as we finally host all of our interviews.
And with that…
We’d like to thank you, listener, for tuning in to learn a little bit about the Hear Our Stories podcast and the work we’re doing to achieve it. We hope that you’ll tune in to the podcast once it goes live - we can’t wait for you all to Hear Their Stories.
Until next time,
Harkamal, Julia, and Sarah
This article has NOT been sponsored by Squarespace, Casper Mattress, or Hello Fresh – we promise.
2SLGBTQIA+ Organizations in KW:
KW Unity Mosque
2SLGBTQIA+ University/College Groups:
QTPOC-KW (Facebook: @kw.qtpoc)
UW Drag Club (Facebook: @uwdragclub)
About the Authors
Harkamal is a cis-female, Punjabi, Sikh and a child of immigrants. She is from Etobicoke, where her parents chose to settle in the 80s. She did her Undergrad at Queens University in Religious Studies. Her interest in museums is in collections and the inclusion of non-Western frameworks and knowledges within these spaces. She’s also interested in exploring the use of narratives in museums and archives for collective memory and identity. Harkamal is a huge reader; she also loves to garden and has many houseplants.
Julia is a settler born in KW, but she currently resides in Centre Wellington. She is cis, her pronouns are she/her, and she identifies as queer. Before she started at the University of Toronto, she did an Undergrad at the University of Guelph and a Master’s degree at the University of Waterloo, both of which were in Classical Studies. She has very big dreams of improving museum content on antiquity – specifically in content on gender and sexuality. Outside of school and work, her hobbies generally include playing Dungeons and Dragons and making silly little cosplays for whatever TV Show or movie she’s currently obsessed with.
Sarah is a cisgender bisexual settler women, born and raised in Guelph. She is also a mother to a very spirited four year old. She attended Laurier in her Undergrad and her background is in classical archaeology and history. She has a deep love for collections and her dream is to dismantle colonial collection practices within archives and museums. Outside of school she is an avid tea lover and an amateur chef. She also enjoys doing puzzles, reading, snacking and watching tv and movies. She is a long-time Marvel fan, loves her period pieces, and recently got into F1.