The collection documents a working class "gay" bar, the Shamrock Bar, Bluefield, West Virginia, 1997-2000, through photographs and oral history interviews.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of Carol Burch-Brown's photographs (200 photoprints, mostly silver gelatin on fiber-base paper, but including more than a dozen digital prints), copies of tape-recorded interviews (on 26 compact discs), and transcripts of interviews (3 volumes plus a compact disc containing Word files) made at the Shamrock Bar, Bluefield, West Virginia, 1997-2002, documenting a working-class gay bar. The photographs include "drag" performances, pageants, and other activities at the bar. Many show performers applying makeup and donning costumes, including the use of prosthetic breasts. Pictures taken in the bar are often in a soft-focus, slightly blurred, high-contrast, impressionistic style. There are a number of sharp-focus portraits, however, and exterior views of the building, its neighborhood, and the town are sharply focused, detailed documentary images.
Names (usually pseudonyms or stage names) which turn up in the interviews include: Natasha Michaels, Nikki Eaves, Shea West, Cortney Collins, Taylor Made, India Dream, Clinton, Tiffany Aver, Terba Devero, Roxie Morehead, and Dorothy. The performer "Bunny" is actually the photographer's friend and colleague, Ann Kilkelly. Many of these persons are also shown in the photographs, as is Helen Compton.
Note: The audio compact disks are not original recordings, and may be played by researchers directly.
The collection is divided into three series.
Series 1: Photoprints
Series 2: Text (including transcripts of interviews)
Series 3: Compact discs
Carol Burch-Brown is Professor of Art and Humanities at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, and is a photographer, painter, and musician. Photographer and co-author with David Rigsbee, Trailers, University Press of Virginia, 1996.
During its heyday, the Shamrock Bar in Bluefield, West Virginia was a gathering place for gays and lesbians. The photographer reported in March 2003, before donating this collection, that Miss Helen Compton, proprietor of the Shamrock, had died and the establishment had been closed.
It's Reigning Queens in Appalachia
Colection donated by Carol Burch-Brown, December 2003.
Collection open for research on site by appointment. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright. Requests will be referred to the photographer.