Vancouver Pride Parade marshal chronicled LGBT movement for over 40 years

Ron Dutton created the B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives in 1976 and amassed over three quarter of a million items over the years: photos, posters, audio recordings, videos and more.

Ron Dutton says real credit belongs to people who donated to B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives

An anti-violence rally takes place in Vancouver in 1979. This is one of the thousands of photos in the B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives, curated by Ron Dutton. (B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives)

One of the people who will be at the head of this year's Pride Parade in Vancouver has chronicled the LGBT movement in the city for over 40 years.

Ron Dutton created the B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives in 1976 and amassed over 750,000 items over the years: photos, posters, audio recordings, videos and more.

"To be honest, I was a little shy about the whole matter," Dutton told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko about being named a marshall on Monday.

"It's a humbling experience but no civic institution like an archive is the work of a single individual. Ever. It's the work ... over many years, of many, many people.

"So to be singled out and told you'll be at the front of the parade feels a little perplexing to me."

Dutton says far from being his project, the archives are only possible because of stories and memorabilia shared with him by LGBT persons, historians and writers who have chronicled their struggle and the organizations and movements that have pushed for change over decades.

"I don't want to take credit away from that effort," he said. "When you see me waving, there's 200 people waving."

Two people pose for a photo during the 1987 International Lesbian Week held in Vancouver. (B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives)

Growing number of boxes

Dutton described himself as a political "firebrand" in the early '70s as the gay liberation movement took shape, but he felt their work needed to be preserved for posterity.

He says he started simply throwing items in boxes — which soon turned into hundreds of boxes — and then, he said "some order needed to be imposed upon it." That was the spark of the archives.

Part of the collection of VHS tapes gathered by Ron Dutton and soon to be digitized. (B.C. Gay and Lesbian Archives)

One of his commitments early on in the process, he said, was capturing the experiences of the "marginalized within marginalized communities: women, young people, seniors, ethnic and religious minorities and rural people.

"They often have the least money to even put out posters and handouts," Dutton explained. "They tend to be ignored."

Big changes

Dutton says a lot has changed for the LGBT community in Vancouver since he's been keeping the archives.

Many of the clubs and bars where gay people used to meet have closed but now social media has become a place for people to find others in the community.

That can be a positive in that it's easier to make connections with people of a similar identity, Dutton says, but it's also leading to a sense of isolation.

"You no longer have the diversity of a community to be a part of," he lamented.

The Vancouver Pride Parade takes place Aug. 5.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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