Congratulations are in order for the Peabody Ballroom Experience, newly crowned winner of the National Council of Public History’s honored Small Institution Award (2023). AGHI board member Joseph Plaster has collaborated with the Legends and Icons behind the Peabody Ballroom Experience since before its opening ball in 2019, including in collecting and protecting the oral histories of Baltimore’s ballroom scene, past and present.
The NCPH described their decision to award the PBE with this crown thusly:
The committee was impressed by ‘The Peabody Ballroom Experience’ as it proved to be a refreshing take on public history. The project is a great example of how to co-create with surrounding communities. The occupation of a traditionally white space with culturally significant concepts from “gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming people of color” was outstanding and thought-provoking. The blending of performance, oral history, and archival research was particularly innovative. The ‘Peabody Ballroom Experience’’s unique program composition brings to life an important part of Baltimore’s subculture, yet at the same time, transcends the typical local history narrative to truly convey a national story.NCPH, “2023 NCPH Awards”
As a public humanities project which, in Plaster’s words, “bring[s] together a wide array of publics as partners in research and education” (JP), the Peabody Ballroom Experience has dazzled in one ball (in 2019) and a second upcoming ball (set for April 2015), one FIRE!! Showcase in 2022 [short film below], and numerous dance and film partnerships. These live events and recordings combine—thanks to the artists and activists behind the scenes (and in some cases in the spotlight)—with oral histories, special collections exhibits, and an open call for members of the community to archive their own Baltimore ballroom ephemera.
Congratulations, Joseph and the entire BPE team! And check out the Experience on their website, Instagram, and YouTube channel.