Professor Robert Deam Tobin, the Henry J. Leir Chair in Language, Literature, and Culture, was awarded a Key to the City of Worcester on Sunday, January 26, for his work on “LGBTQ+ Worcester — For the Record,” a 2019 Worcester Historical Museum exhibit that documented and celebrated the history of the LGBTQ+ community in Worcester County.
Tobin, who received the City of Worcester’s highest honor along with fellow scholars and exhibit collaborators Stephanie E. Yuhl from the College of the Holy Cross and Joseph F. Cullon from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, were recognized for their efforts in curating the exhibit and for their help producing a 116-page, full-color catalog by the same name that documents LGBTQ+ stories from across Worcester County. The book is available for $28 at the Worcester Historical Museum gift shop (or online, with a shipping and handling fee of $8), as well as at Worcester Wares and the Bedlam Book Café.
The exhibit was on display just as other such celebrations were scheduled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall Uprising, an event credited with kindling what became known as the gay liberation movement. Tobin, Yuhl, and Cullon were praised for undertaking the exhibit, which captured and preserved the experience of the LGBTQ+ community in Worcester County — complete with oral histories — and shared the previously untold story of LGBTQ+ life in Worcester.
In a letter that accompanied the Key to the City, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty wrote, “The history of our community’s most marginalized and unrecognized communities are the most vital and need to be shared and celebrated for the edification of our entire city. … Thank you for improving and expanding upon what it means to be from Worcester. For your service to our city, for preserving and sharing the stories and history of the LGBTQ+ community, it is only right and fitting that you receive the City of Worcester’s highest honor.”
“I was really moved that the city leaders took the time to honor scholarly work in the humanities as important for preserving ‘our identity as a city,’” says Professor Tobin. “They were able to see how this kind of work, documenting ‘marginalized and unrecognized communities’ like the LGBTQ+ community, helps create a more justice society.”
Professor Tobin also worked with students in several of his comparative literature courses on gay and lesbian history to research and mount a satellite exhibit, “Queering Clark,” which highlighted Clark’s LGBTQ+ heritage from the 1970s to the present. Similar exhibits also were mounted at the College of the Holy Cross and WPI.
Learn more about “LGBTQ+ Worcester – For the Record” and “Queering Clark” exhibits on ClarkNow.