Documenting The Queer Pandemic

Kent State researcher gathers stories from the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID-19 pandemic

Molly Merryman, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Kent State's School for Peace and Conflict Studies. She's also the research director for Queer Britain, a national LGBTQ+ museum in London, England.

The Queer Pandemic research project collects remote video interviews with LGBTQ+ people from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, documenting all stages of the COVID-19 global pandemic. A video display of the interviews conducted thus far is part of the inaugural exhibition which opened at the Queer Britain museum in July and will continue through April 2023.

Queer Pandemic exhibition at Queer Britain museum

The Queer Pandemic Exhibition. The image on the screen is the U.K.'s first Muslim drag queen, Images from Isolated Lens and Viral Verses are on the wall. 

Merryman is the lead researcher on the project, which launched in spring 2020 in collaboration with Lauren Vachon, assistant professor and coordinator of the LGBTQ Studies program at Kent State, and Justin Bengry, Ph.D., director of the Goldsmiths’ Centre for Queer History at the University of London, and convener of the Queer History master’s degree program – the first degree of its kind in the world. The research team continues to collect interviews for the project.

Other associated projects 

Several other exhibits created in collaboration with Kent State faculty and students are also on display at the museum.

Isolated Lens

 “Isolated Lens,” is a guided exhibition of “selfies” developed by Merryman and Jeremy Ritch, a senior Peace and Conflict Studies major at Kent State. Ritch used his skills as a photographer to assist people who shared their stories in the Queer Pandemic project in creating high quality self-portraits that would become part of the overall exhibition. He received support for his project from a Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) grant.

Jason - a interviewee for the Queer Pandemic project

Jason is one of the project's interview subjects. He took this photo for the Isolated Lens gallery. 

Viral Verses

Vachon worked with Merryman to design the “Viral Verses” project, using curated sections from the Queer Pandemic transcripts as the basis for creating “erasure poetry.” Erasure poetry, also called “blackout poetry,” is an activity in which a poet takes an existing text and erases or blacks out portions of the text, creating a wholly new work from what remains. Examples of erasure poetry created at summer receptions are now part of the exhibit at the Queer Britain Museum

SPCS Spring Colloquium

The Queer Pandemic project is the topic of the School for Peace and Conflict Studies' Spring Colloquium 2023 on March 23, presented by Merryman, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Room 307 McGilvrey Hall. Merryman’s presentation will link her research with a broader framing of peace museums and share updates from her work with Queer Britain.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 03:28 PM
Updated: Thursday, March 30, 2023 02:19 PM
Phil B. Soencksen