Oral History Project Seeks Stories from Drag Community

Researchers are working to preserve the history of drag traditions in Arkansas.

Drag queen Symone
Conway native Symone won the 13th season RuPaul's Drag Race. Photo courtesy of Kaio Cesar.

Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts, a statewide program of the University of Arkansas Libraries. is seeking participants for the Arkansas Drag Community Oral History Project. The project aims to capture the unique past and present experiences with drag performance in Arkansas and provide an ongoing repository for interviews and materials, according to a press release.

All drag community members including performers, costume designers, venue owners and audience members are welcome to express interest in the project by filling out a brief form

The project falls under the scope of work outlined in Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts’ mission while simultaneously challenging understandings of who is included and can participate in “folklife.” 

Conceptualized and spearheaded by Deena R. Owens, administrative assistant for Special Collections, and Virginia Siegel, folk arts coordinator, the Arkansas Drag Community Oral History Project will project the voices of Arkansas’ unique and historic LGBTQIA+ communities. 

“We want all of the stories — everything from the Discovery Club, Ron’s Place, Tangerine, Kinkead’s, a dorm room or anywhere else drag has been performed,” Owens said. “The nitty gritty personal tales and remembrances. It’s an important part of our state’s history that is being lost to time.” 

Arkansas Folk and Traditional Arts, revitalized in 2019 and located within the University Libraries Special Collections Division, has a mission to highlight and support all varieties and expressions of cultural heritage across the state.  

“It’s really important that folk arts programs document and represent that full spectrum of tradition in our communities — especially those traditions that have been under-documented and underrepresented in our archives,” Siegel said. “Folklife, broadly defined, reimagines the artistic traditions of all kinds of creatives as worthy of celebration and preservation. Folk art, at its core, is the expertise and knowledge we learn from our communities — our traditions that have skillful, artful components. Drag performance is a perfect example of this.”