April Flashback to 1988! When “Youth Out United” Formed

By Mel Frizzell, Special Collections Assistant


April 10, 1988 marks the founding and first official meeting of the Gay and Lesbian youth group, Youth Out United (Y.O.U.), at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, Virginia.  I had the privilege of belonging to this group when I was in college, so this blog post is not only historical, but personal.

Y.O.U. was a group for gay and lesbian teens and young adults up to the age of 25.  The group was originally founded as simply the “Gay / Lesbian Youth Group” in April 1988.  By summer, the group had an official name U.G.L.Y (United Gay and Lesbian Youth) and had moved to what was known as the Pritchard Building at the corner of Olney and Granby Street in Norfolk.  I discovered the group in January or February 1989 – my second semester of college at ODU.  Not long after I arrived, members decided to change the name of the group to Youth Out United and meetings moved back to the Unitarian Church where they would remain for several years. 


The name change was brought on by a concern that “U.G.L.Y.” sent the wrong message to youth who may already have issues with their self-esteem for being gay.  Moving to the Unitarian Church gave the group more legitimacy and visibility, especially since the office of Our Own Community Press was just next door to our meeting room.  The youth group itself had no official connection to the Unitarian Church other than meeting there.

gay-lesbian-youth-meet (002)

One of the things that always impressed me about the group, even to this day, was that this group was self-run by the youth themselves.  When visiting other cities, LGBTQ youth groups were almost always run by institutions such as LGBTQ community centers.  Here in Norfolk, the youth group was self-run and self-organized.  A slogan for the group was “For YOU, by YOU.”  It was the youth themselves who created the organization, came up with a constitution and by-laws, set up officers, and even created a board of advisors from the local LGBTQ community. In a lot of ways, we felt we were on our own to do this.  Times were different than they are today, and many “adults” in the community were concerned about helping out youth – both due to stigma and possible legal issues.  This was long before gay-straight alliances began appearing in high schools. 


Meetings were on Sunday afternoons and often there was a topic of discussion.  Sometimes we brought in guests to speak and other times we talked as a group about specific topics of interest.  After the meetings, we usually had dinner at the College Cue Club, a gay club adjacent to the ODU campus.  Y.O.U. was much more than the weekly meetings and dinners though.  Members actually got involved in the local community and local activism.  Some members took part in the March on Washington for gay rights.  Some members went on a local talk show.  To build community (and to raise funds), we had spaghetti dinner fundraisers at the Unitarian Church and we also had roller skating parties at a local skating rink.  One of our members made the news by taking his boyfriend to his high school prom.


Those days were filled with mostly happy memories.  Eventually, I passed the age of 25 and had to move on.  Many of the people from the group I still count fondly as friends, even if I don’t see them as much anymore.  As for the group, it eventually became an outreach program under the Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce (TACT) in the late 1990s or early 2000s.  TACT became Access AIDS Care which eventually birthed the LGBT Life Center of Hampton Roads.  As of last year, the LGBTQ youth group still met at the LGBT Life Center as Y.O.U.  As of this post, the group is listed on their website as YOUth Matter.  

You can find out more about Youth Out United, the College Cue Club, Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce, and many other topics listed in this post by browsing the Our Own Community Press digital collection at:


ODU Special Collections and University archives also has related materials in the following collections:

Please note these other collections are not available digitally and are not available during the current COVID-19 shutdown, so please schedule a visit when we eventually reopen.

Making Our Collections More Accessible Online with ArchivesSpace

by Steven Bookman, University Archivist

Although I worked from home every Friday for a semester while working at William & Mary, it has been several years, and it was hard to get back into the rhythm. Working from home does have its advantages: you can be more productive, can work at your own pace, and it does force you to take breaks every now and then! Like those in the software field, I am finding telework to be a great advantage for doing database cleanup. This year, Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) will be migrating its Special Collections Database of finding aids into a new collection management system called ArchivesSpace. One of the tasks that I will be working on from home is cleaning up the current database to make sure it is ready to be migrated to ArchivesSpace.

Sneak Peek of ArchivesSpace Interface

I spent most of this week getting re-acclimated into the telework mindset: scheduling my day, setting up my home office, and viewing a LinkedIn Learning course on telework. Before having our own test instance of ArchivesSpace up, I wanted to see what our current finding aids might look like in the new system. The hosted test instance of ArchivesSpace provides a place for institutions to upload versions of their finding aids, accessions, and digital objects for testing. In this way, if anything goes wrong, it will not affect their current, live instance.  Admittedly, after spending over 12 years working with Archon, the new interface requires some time getting used to.

After creating a sample repository for SCUA, I uploaded two finding aids (manuscript and university archives) to the system. The new interface takes advantage of a lot of graphics and icons (collections, accessions, creators, digital collections, etc..), so I wanted to see if I could put at least one item in each icon. Unlike our current system, Archon, users can search both across all the repositories in the collection as well as narrow down your search to just one repository. This gives the researcher the flexibility of getting a lot of relevant hits as well as focusing their search to just one institution. After adding in record groups, accessions, and digital materials, SCUA staff can see what the current finding aids will look like in the new system. Although it may look a bit daunting to get used to at first, I believe the new collection management system will be an improvement over the current one.

Stay tuned for future updates about the status of SCUA’s Special Collections Database migration.

The Story Behind One of Our Most Popular Artifacts: John Duffy’s Emmy

by Maddie Dietrich, Music Special Collections & Research Specialist

One of two Emmy’s awarded to composer John Duffy

One of the more widely-seen items in our holdings is an Emmy award belonging to the late composer John Duffy (June 23, 1926, New York City—December 22, 2015, Norfolk, Virginia). Oftentimes when a class visits Special Collections the Emmy is brought out along with a dozen or so other objects, oddities and memorabilia intended to demonstrate to students that Special Collections isn’t just about old papers and manuscripts but in fact consists of all kinds of artifacts, including old papers and manuscripts, which tell the stories firsthand of the persons to whom they once belonged. These introductory class sessions are intended to teach students how to use the collections and include brief hands-on exercises on how to examine items—papers, photographs, maps, calendars, and so on—and offers suggestions on the kinds of information a person might glean from viewing these items firsthand, free from the editorial framework imposed by some intermediary scholar for their own agenda.

So what about this Emmy award? What makes it so popular, so impressive? Well, it’s big and heavy, and it’s shiny and gold. And it’s easily recognized though relatively few people have ever seen one in person. And of course it represents a pinnacle of human achievement in television broadcasting–somebody, somewhere, sometime, did something so outstanding in their field that their peers deemed the accomplishment worthy of their highest award, to be remembered for all time. To see this Emmy, then, is to experience a brush with greatness. And so who was John Duffy and what did he do to win an Emmy, and how did it end up in Special Collections?

Retired Reading Room Supervisor Mona Farrow with the Duffy Emmy

Born and raised in the Bronx, John Duffy was a veteran of U.S. Navy and fought in the Battle of Okinawa during WWII. After the war he studied composition with such musical giants as Henry Cowell and Aaron Copland and went on to become music director at the Guthrie Theater and the American Shakespeare Festival. He wrote scores for the Broadway productions of J. P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man and Barbara Garson’s MacBird! In 1974 he founded the organization Meet The Composer in association with the New York State Council on the Arts and the American Music Center. He was in fact a two-time Emmy winner, receiving his first for writing the score of the NBC documentary A Talent for Life: Jews of the Italian Renaissance (1979) and his second for the score of the PBS production Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (1984). In 2005 he worked with the Virginia Arts Festival to found The John Duffy Composers Institute, a workshop for young composers which for ten years was held in the Diehn Composers Room on the campus of Old Dominion University (the workshop later became the John Duffy Institute for New Opera). In 2011 Duffy donated his collection of scores, manuscripts and memorabilia to ODU Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (The John Duffy Papers, 1944-2012). Though he composed more than 300 works for symphony orchestra, theater, television and film, Duffy felt strongly that “classical” music was no more worthy an art form than any other type of music, popular or otherwise, and fought to expose the ingrained privilege and prejudice that often hides behind such hierarchies.

That’s who John Duffy was, and that’s why we have his Emmy. When the pandemic is over, make a plan to visit our collections and ask to see it!

Spring Cleaning? Donate to Special Collections!

By Lara Canner, Allan Blank Curator of Music Special Collections

My house is both simultaneously the cleanest and dirtiest it has ever been. The quarantine has led to me polishing the floors till they reflect like mirrors, my windows gleam like fresh cut diamonds and no dust motes can be found sparkling in an afternoon sunbeam. I leave a trail of lemony freshness behind me wherever I go. Yet, my zest for cleanliness has also had an unfortunate side effect: I decided to spring clean my closets.

Piles of clothes have created small mountain ranges to climb over, totes tower in the corners of an otherwise spotless rooms and bags of baby clothes beg to be taken to Goodwill for donation. I leave a trail of destruction wherever I go. Almost nothing in my spring cleaning has sparked joy (thank you very much Marie Kondo), except one item.

Hill’s Manual of Social Business
Hill’s Manual of Social Business Inscription

A book called Hill’s Manual of Social Business Forms, it is an etiquette guide for the proper use of language and writing in diverse situations. Within the pages are step-by-step instructions on how to craft letter of recommendation, writing invitations, petitions, to name a few. I was gifted this from my grandmother-in-law earlier this year, as she was moving and thought I would appreciate it. Spring cleaning remained me that I needed to find proper housing for the antique text and that the book should not reside on a shelf for any duration.

Since, this particular book has family sentimental value, I’m going to continue to hold onto it for a bit longer. However, in the future, I will consider donating this item to the Chicago History Museum (link: https://www.chicagohistory.org/) archives. The inscription indicates the book had a special meaning to families in Chicago, so I know it will be a place where the text will be kept safe, yet still available for research. Perhaps now is the perfect time to go through desk drawers, filing cabinets and boxes with the intent to donate your works to an archive?

If you live in Hampton Roads, or graduated/work(ed) at Old Dominion University, our archive is a great option!

 Right now, your work gathers dust (not in this house!) or lies inactive at the bottom of a drawer. A donation to an archive will give these materials new life, providing access to potentially thousands of researchers, who’s own papers could value from the expertise of your hard work. Moreover, you can rest assured that an archive will not simply take proper care of your items (in a lovely climate-controlled facility) but be excited for the chance to preserve a bit of history.

I only anticipate my cleaning whirlwind to escalate, the longer the stay-at-home order persists. My hope is when I do finally return to work that my in-box will be filled with donation requests from patrons in the grip of their own spring-cleaning frenzy! (and leaving the lemony freshness at home…)

If you are considering donating your papers and ephemera to the Old Dominion University Special Collections and University Archives, please contact: libspecialcollections@odu.edu. We can discuss your collection while we are closed, and if it’s a good fit, work on transferring it when we reopen!

She-Ra Visits the Archive

by Metadata Specialist Kathleen Smith

As a seventh grader nearly thirty-five years ago, I used to watch She-Ra: Princess of Power after school every day. I was thrilled to find that Netflix had a new rebooted version titled She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. I have been watching the reboot and I found it much better than the original version, with the characters having more diverse backgrounds and backstories.

In the reboot, a former soldier of the evil Horde, Adora is trying to find her identity and purpose in life on the planet Etheria after coming upon a magic sword which transforms her into the mighty warrior She-Ra. Helping her on her journey are Princess Glimmer and Bow who are fighting in a rebellion against the Horde.

One of the characters, Bow an archer and technology whiz, grew up in the Library of the Whispering Woods with his two fathers George and Lance, the library’s historians/archivists. This is featured in the second season episode “Reunion,” when Bow secretly runs off to visit his fathers. Adora (She-Ra) and Glimmer follow Bow’s tracks and find him in the archives, where they learn unique artifacts and ancient pottery. Not giving much more away, this is an episode I consider to be a favorite because it features a library and archive complete with artifacts and rare books.  The vase and other pottery on display there remind me of the ancient Cypriot pottery in ODU Special Collections’ Dudley Cooper collection that is on display in our Reading Room in Perry Library.

ODU Professor Jared Benton’s Ancient Arts and Archaeology class visited the Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives to analyze ancient Cypress pottery

It was a great thrill to watch this episode, because I work in an archives department within a university library, and I like seeing libraries and archives being represented animatedly.  If you are binging on Netflix during the stay-at-home order and are into libraries and archives, you might want to watch this!

Looking Back at Another Major Epidemic: The Arrival of AIDS (HIV) in Hampton Roads

by Special Collections Assistant Mel Frizzell

While we are currently dealing with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the world today, back in the 1980s another virus epidemic had people scared – the AIDS (HIV) epidemic.  While the COVID-19 is believed to have jumped species from bats to humans, HIV is believed to have jumped from chimpanzees to humans. Similar to COVID-19, HIV first presented itself in 1981 as a rare lung infection.  Unlike COVID-19 which is believed to be worst on older generations, HIV was first diagnosed in younger gay men. At the same time, some gay men in New York and California also experienced an aggressive form of cancer.  The link between these cases eventually became apparent and in 1981 the disease was dubbed Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).  The disease was later linked to IV drug users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians, and by September 1982 the CDC had renamed the disease AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).  In 1986, the virus that causes AIDS was officially named HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). 

The disease first made headlines in Our Own in July 1981 in a very brief article titled “New Pneumonia Linked to Gay Lifestyle.” 

Because of it’s initial link to gay men and other disenfranchised groups, the disease carried much stigma, even though the disease itself did not discriminate one group from another.  Nearly half of all the cases in 1981 ended in death. While no cure was ever found for the disease, contracting HIV is no longer the death sentence it was once considered.  There are currently drugs on the market that make living with the disease manageable and also drugs that help prevent its spread.

February 1987 issue of Our Own

For anyone looking to learn the history and response of the AIDS epidemic in Hampton Roads, there are several articles in Our Own Community Press.  These include articles about the initial rise of the disease, the formation of the Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce (TACT), the politics and stigma of AIDS, and even photos of the AIDS quilt that was created to memorialize those who died from the disease. 

Archived issues of Our Own Community Press are available in our Digital Special Collections: https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/ourown

For a general overview and time line of the AIDS epidemic, the following resource is helpful: https://www.avert.org/professionals/history-hiv-aids/overview

Researching When Your Repository is Closed

by Allan Blank Curator of Music Special Collections Lara Canner

With massive closures occurring all over the country due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), what happens if the repository you rely upon shuts its doors to researchers? Does scholarly work stop until archives, libraries, universities and museums re-open? Perhaps the answer to these questions is: simply changing tactics.

Have you tried contacting your local repository?

Many archives, Old Dominion University Special Collections included, have decided to virtually open their doors to patrons. We are providing distance research and available to answer questions via chat, or email. While, we are not allowed back on campus during this troubling time, we are very much here for our researchers.

Please contact Special Collections and University Archives with your archival inquiries by emailing:  libspecialcollections@odu.edu

We also have specialized librarians available for an array of subjects: https://guides.lib.odu.edu/coronavirus

Have you tried online resources?

Archives, through the years, have seen a rise in virtual patrons. Those looking to access historical records via the internet, without the need to physically visit a repository. Old Dominion Special Collections and University Archives have over twenty digital collections with hundreds of records, just to fill this need. We are even digitizing more materials as I speak. Photographs, oral histories, specialized newspapers, music, video, and military collections can all be found by visiting: https://dc.lib.odu.edu/

Old Dominion University Libraries have an extensive collection of online journals available to our users. Ranging from Abstracts in Social Gerontology to the Wall Street Journal and a staggering number of subjects in between. However, you have only ever seen the reference book needed for your research at one repository, which happens to be closed…what now? Are you positive that book can only be found at one institution? WorldCat is a catalogue containing manuscript listing from all OCLC members (basically all, or most libraries). Chances are, this database can link you to another copy of the book you seek, even digital copies. Please visit our alphabetical list of databases here: http://guides.lib.odu.edu/az.php?a=w

Wanting to connect researchers to Old Dominion University scholars resulted in the libraries creating ODU Digital Commons. An online space where researchers can download professional papers from Old Dominion University faculty and students. The Digital Commons boast over eleven thousand papers from over nine hundred disciplines: https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/

Have you tried reaching out to others in your field?

Unsure what to do, or how to find sources now that most of us are confined to our homes? It may be time to network. Email, FaceTime, use social media, simply reach out to those whose work you are acquainted with, or admire for professional advice. Recently, I spoke with the director of an archive who I met briefly at a conference. She gave me advice on projects, study guides and professional development trainings to watch while teleworking. One recommendation she had, which might benefit the historical researchers out there was the American Historical Association’s Resources for Historical Researchers: https://www.historians.org/jobs-and-professional-development/professional-life/resources-for-historical-researchers

Have you tried preparing for when archives reopen?

To hit the ground running when research institutes do re-open, taking the time now to prepare can make all the difference. Creating detailed outlines, informational spreadsheets and compiling lists of collections to later view, will mean that your research will go much more smoothly.

 Speaking from personal experience, prepared researchers are always my favorites. These patrons email weeks prior to their visit (asking what times are the best to visit), they have organized lists of the collections that they want to view (saving everyone time) and know library polices (such as no food or drink…so sadly no Starbucks in Special Collections). This also gives the archivists time to prepare and provide the best service. To prepare for ODU Special Collections and University Archives re-opening, please visit our list of finding aids: http://www.lib.odu.edu/archon/

Have you tried relaxing?

The world is at a stand-still due to a devastating illness. The stress of confinement, employment and factors outside of one’s control. Perhaps, the answer is to take some time to read a novel, ride a bike (while social distancing, of course!), virtually watch a symphony and most importantly take care of yourself. Really, I have found that the best points in my papers have come after walks. Literally, stepping away from work has given me the clarity to write more persuasively.

While I’m very much looking forward to the moment my repository re-opens its doors, now is the time to take care of ourselves. Research can wait.

For the most up-to-date information concerning Old Dominion University Libraries response to the COVID-19 virus, please view the following link: https://guides.lib.odu.edu/coronavirus