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Highland Square in Akron, Ohio
Highland Square in Akron, Ohio, the focus of the project's first neighborhood study. Photo © Mark Turnauckas

Contact Information

Molly Merryman, PhD
Principal Investigator


Cara Gilgenbach

David Purcell, PhD


Lauren Vachon, Graduate Assistant

LGBTQ Neighborhood Project

The LGBTQ Neighborhoods Project is a multi-year, multi-pronged research project that will analyze LGBTQ populations in Ohio's seven major cities (Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown). The project will focus on qualitative and quantitative analyses of LGBTQ urban populations and oral history interviews with former and current residents of Ohio's gay neighborhoods. We seek to document LGBTQ neighborhood gentrification in these individual metropolitan areas, the economic and demographic impact of this gentrification, and the rise of LGBTQ culture and community, as well as to collect, catalogue and share stories of LGBTQ lives.

Our project will be the first of its kind to research and document LGBTQ populations in an entire state. While social scientists and other scholars have explored such neighborhoods in major cities such as New York and San Francisco, smaller cities, especially in the Midwest, have been neglected. Additionally, few repositories maintain concentrated archival collections related to LGBTQ communities. Our project will establish a unique primary source collection that will eventually be accessible worldwide.

This project has three primary goals. We plan to: (1) research issues associated with urban LGBTQ populations, including their socioeconomic impact and the challenges faced by LGBTQ pioneers in gentrifying neighborhoods; (2) create archival collections that will be made available to scholars; and (3) involve students in all phases of the research, which will provide significant learning opportunities and data for research on how students benefit from such projects.

The first phase of the project will focus on filming interviews with LGBTQ individuals who were instrumental in redeveloping and improving their current neighborhoods. Akron interviews are scheduled for spring 2013. Our oral history interviews will be on display in Akron and Cleveland at the 2014 Gay Games. Publicly sharing interview excerpts at Gay Games venues as well as on our project's website will garner interest and support for this statewide project as we move forward. The Akron pilot study is funded by the College of Arts and Sciences' Collaborative Research Program.

The end goals of this multi-year and multi-faceted research project will be LGBT Archives containing the oral history interviews, a book-length manuscript, and a broadcast documentary. We are also planning to sustain local partnerships that will allow for ongoing collection of interviews to be added to the archival collection in the future.

The key project leaders are all members of the LGBT Studies faculty. They are: Molly Merryman (Associate Professor, Sociology, and co-coordinator of LGBT Studies), David Purcell (Assistant Professor, Sociology), Cara Gilgenbach (Associate Professor, University Libraries, and head of Special Collections), and Lauren Vachon (Graduate Assistant, English MFA program).