Queer Cleveland is a project of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University. Queer Cleveland maps and documents hundreds of locations of historical businesses, organizations, and events that played roles in LGBTQ+ communities in Northeast Ohio between the 1930s and 2010s. Rooted in archival research and oral history, this website illuminates how – and where – LGBTQ+ communities developed. Queer Cleveland draws inspiration from other digital mapping projects that reconstitute historical geographies, notably Mapping the Gay Guides, a project at Clemson University and California State University Fullerton, and Washington University’s Mapping LGBTQ St. Louis, but also our own Green Book Cleveland project, with which it shares the same platform and a similar design.

Queer Cleveland originated with research by Leda Carol Drake (MA ’17) that produced a spreadsheet with several dozen historical businesses and organizations. The idea for a map-based website emerged as Mark Souther and Erin Bell developed the PlacePress plugin with grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2022, another CSU graduate student, Riley Habyl (MA ’24), greatly expanded Drake’s spreadsheet into a database of more than 400 locations through extensive research in Cleveland-based LGBTQ+ newspapers and other primary sources, many of which are found in the LGBT Archives at Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland State University Special Collections, and Mike Brunstedt’s PRIDE Museum. Queer Cleveland has benefited from the subject expertise of Dr. Gregory Conerly at CSU. The project also reflects insights from a number of oral history interviews (some of which resulted from introductions made by Kimberly Hill at Cuyahoga Community College). In 2023-24, Habyl, along with graduate student Elena Solá and undergraduate student Emily Penner, developed entries and some longer essays for the sites, while Bell designed the project website.

The project will expand through additional research and oral history interviews.