Tangible Heritage and a “Productive Meeting Place”
By Eric Solomon
Originally Published: October 15, 2021
What is The #TUOR Project?
The Touching Up Our Roots Digital Story Tour (or The #TUOR Project) is a self-guided audio tour featuring sites important to queer Atlanta. As a place-based, tangible queer public heritage project, #TUOR aims to entertain, inform, and invite conversation around the sites and stories, places and people important to the development of LGBTQIA+ Atlanta. Using Touching Up Our Roots coordinator Dave Hayward’s previous live story tour routes as a blueprint, the three tour routes currently completed loosely align with the period of Hayward’s life in Atlanta (1971–2021) and feature sites chosen by him for inclusion. A fourth tour is also near completion. The four current routes are 1) Downtown, 2) Little Five Points, 3) the Ponce de Leon corridor, 4) the Monroe Drive and Cheshire Bridge Road corridor. You may find the routes by clicking “Routes” in our website menu.
Though #TUOR remains a work in progress, we understand the intangible power such narratives of queer heritage hold for LGBTQIA+ individuals. As Ken Lustbader writes, “Tangible, place-based LGBTQ heritage has the power to provide both a visceral connection to what is often an unknown and invisible past and the intangible benefits of pride, memory, identity, continuity, and community.” We hope that you continue to hop on the proverbial #TUOR bus and return to the website as the project evolves and the routes expand.
Why do we call it “The #TUOR Project”? The simplest answer is that T-U-O-R is an acronym for Dave Hayward’s initiative Touching Up Our Roots (founded 2002). Hayward’s initiative has a playful “tongue-in-cheek” name that we wanted to replicate with the name of the digital story tour. What better way to queer a self-guided audio tour than to invite listeners to pronounce tour queerly via the misspelling TU-OR? We hope that our queer misspelling will catch on as more listeners hop on the #TUOR routes. Though you may contact us directly, we invite you to share your own stories of sites on the tour routes by using our name and tagging us (#TUOR) on your social platforms.
A Note on Methodology and Terminology
Trying to capture the essence of Dave Hayward’s live Touching Up Our Roots Story Tour via audio recording is like attempting to capture lightning in a bottle. Further, it has been impossible to recreate the live version of the tour or capture the kinetic performative voices of co-conductors Dave Hayward or Maria Helena Dolan via web conferencing platforms like Zoom. All audio files have been recorded by project manager Eric Solomon to achieve the best quality given the constraints of the last year (Summer 2020–Fall 2021). Precautions to protect the health and well-being of the project team, centrally Eric Solomon, Dave Hayward, and Maria Helena Dolan, were taken in all in-person settings. As a result, a significant portion of the audio was recorded via web conferencing platforms. Though this reduces audio quality, it remained the safest way to develop and launch The #TUOR Project within the pandemic context. Given the project’s commitment to documenting and preserving the voices of Dave Hayward and Maria Helena Dolan as much as possible, we hope listeners will forgive minor sound quality or editing errors.
As much as possible, I have resisted altering Dave Hayward’s words or the words of other interlocutors in the editing of playlist audio. As the editing process has continued, I have chosen to preserve the authenticity of cadence, rhythm, and diction as well as the integrity of the stories. Within individual stops on the tour, listeners may notice moments when the audio seems to cut off abruptly to conclude the stop. These moments are examples of when Dave Hayward moved from stop to stop without much pause during our recording sessions.
Further, it is likely that audio files will evolve as the project evolves. We hope further narrators will contact us to tell us their stories of specific sites on The #TUOR Project. As a result, we expect audio files will be amended and revised given the time and resources to do so. We invite you to read our Statement of Ethics and Project Scope.
As Susan Ferentinos writes, “Word choice is important when planning LGBTQ interpretive efforts.” In contextual essays for the website, I have chosen to use the acronym LGBTQIA+ to describe the Atlanta community even as Hayward and others use “gay and lesbian,” LGBT or LGBTQ or LGBTQ+. The terminology used by Hayward’s Touching Up Our Roots initiative has also evolved since 2002, from LGBT to LGBTQ to LGBTQ+. In some instances, including the url for the website, I have used “queer” to describe the “recurrent, eddying, troublant” aspects of sexual and gender identity and historical experience that do not or cannot coalesce into one term or category. In one conversation with a close friend of Dave Hayward’s, I was reminded of the often-negative associations many men and women of a certain generation have with the term “queer.” I acknowledge this negative association, and I assure these readers and listeners that my use of “queer” is no sign of disrespect but rather converses with the queer activist and intellectual tradition to signify aspects of gender and sexual identity that exceed our knowledge as they trouble the very idea of category.
“When interfaces are regarded as productive meeting places rather than as representations of something already finished, we can start to realize the imaginary potential of digital tools.” — Jonas Ingvarsson, Digital Epistemology
- Creator of Live Story Tour and Touching Up Our Roots Coordinator: Dave Hayward
- The #TUOR Project Manager: Dr. Eric Solomon
- Live Story Tour Co-Conductor and Project Advisor: Maria Helena Dolan
- Project Advisor: Lorraine Fontana
- Project Research Assistant and Intern: Maxwell Cloe, M.A.
- Project Illustrator: Henry Adams
Thanks and Acknowledgments:
Dr. Solomon and The #TUOR Project team are grateful for the generous advice from the following scholars, advisors, and community consultants during the ongoing development of this project: Maria Helena Dolan, Lorraine Fontana, Pat Hussain, Mary Anne Adams, Paul Fulton Jr., Martin Padgett, Terry Bird, Sted Mays, Charles Stephens, Charlie Paine, and many more. Additionally, Dr. Solomon wishes to thank John Howard, Cal Gough, Wesley Chenault, Stacey Braukman, Molly McGehee, and Martin Padgett for their contributions to the scholarship on the history of queer Atlanta upon which this project relied heavily. Finally, archives and special collections at Georgia State University, Atlanta History Center, Emory University, the Digital Library of Georgia, Kennesaw State University and other institutions have been invaluable to the shaping of this project. Please visit our resource page for more information about these important repositories.
This project was partially funded by a grant from the Georgia Humanities Council in partnership with the Open Tour Builder platform at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship. We are grateful to Lara McCarty and the GHC team as well as Joanna Mundy and the ECDS team for their support and collaboration.
Contact Us: Please contact us with your stories, comments, and suggestions for how to improve and expand #TUOR. You may get in touch with us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or reach out to us on Twitter (@TuorProject) or Instagram (tuorproject). Give us a follow!
We hope you will make use of this project in your work. We encourage you to cite us using the suggested citation below:
The #TUOR Project, Eric Solomon and Dave Hayward, (2021–): https://tuorqueeratlanta.org/
 Ken Lustbader, “LGTBQ Heritage,” Change Over Time, 6, no. 2 (136–143), 141.
 Susan Ferentinos, “Ways of Interpreting Queer Pasts,” The Public Historian, 41, no. 2 (2019), 21.
 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), xii.