Heather Quinsey’s Polaroid installation, titled “Choose Your Own Research” tackled complexities involved in researching, especially when dealing with issues of gender and sexuality. Conceived as a scavenger hunt, the project led researchers on a route of many potential divergent paths. The installation began with a Polaroid displayed over our online library catalogue; written below the image were the call numbers—without titles—to a book and an exhibition catalogue located in different sections of the Library. On retrieving either publication, participants discovered that the books explored aspects of sexual diversity. As well, each book retrieved offered a new Polaroid photograph hidden in between the pages that cited an additional two call numbers.
In reference to subject matter, hiding photographs within the pages of books offers a forceful metaphor of how subjects of sexuality, gender dysphoria, and queer theory are oftentimes kept “secret” from librarians and, furthermore, are “hidden” in the problematic Library of Congress’ HV section, disturbingly titled “Social Pathology, Social and Public Welfares, Criminology.” Similarly, one of the first publications offered by Quinsey is from our exhibition catalogue collection. Students interested in artists who present themes of gender or alternate sexualities are unable to browse for materials on this subject as artists are categorized by artistic medium, then by nationality. Quinsey seems to ask the question: which is more important for LGBTQ2S researchers; nationality or sexuality? Library of Congress classification practices favor the former in establishing the “aboutness” of these books, yet are these decisions discriminatory?
And of course the complete irony of the installation is that participants really are given very few choices in “choosing one’s own research”! Perhaps Quinsey is hinting that if the research had involved a librarian or the reference desk or even the OPAC library catalogue a more dialogic, less secretive research process may occur?