The National Railway Museum is to launch a new collecting project to record the voices of railway workers from the LGBTQ+ community, for the first time.
The project, called People, Pride and Progress’ has been backed by almost £100k from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The York museum said it will create up to 70 oral history interviews with people from the rail industry to document their experiences and to “fill a gap in railway knowledge before it is lost”.
Beginning this month, interviews will be added to the museum’s permanent collection and updates and results will be shared with the public throughout the project which is expected to run until November 2025.
The National Railway Museum is one of five museums in the Science Museum Group, and the project is the first digital archive to be available at all five of its museums, which also include the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and Science Museum in London.
The project comes as the museum said the rail industry of the 19th and much of the 20th centuries was often-hostile environment for LGBTQ+ employees, and the historic prejudice had meant information, including personal records, is not readily available.
It has been launched with the support and cooperation of the rail industry including Network Rail’s LGBT+ organisation Archway. It follows more than three months of initial research with community groups, rail industry contacts, museum professionals, leading academics and experts in oral history, said the museum.
Alison Kay, Archives Manager at the National Railway Museum, said: “The huge shift in attitudes in society and the rail industry over the last 50 years is significant.
“These changes have not been recorded and risk being lost unless these voices and stories are recorded now.”
Kay said the work will be guided by both the LGBTQ+ community and the rail industry and “will enhance the national collection and our understanding of railway history”.
The project will recruit 30 younger LGBTQ+ volunteers, currently working in the rail industry, who after professional training will conduct interviews with LGBTQ+ rail employees to share their stories.
The new funding will be used in part to appoint a dedicated oral history archivist to manage the project.
Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the funding “ensures that the voices and memories of the community can be heard for generations to come.’
In addition to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has also received support from the Friends of the National Railway Museum and ASLEF LGBT+ Representative Committee.