• Communicating Legacy: Media, Memory and Harvey Milk

      Kitch, Carolyn L.; Mendelson, Andrew L. (Andrew Lawrence), 1967-; Cagle, Paul Chris; Alwood, Edward (Temple University. Libraries, 2017)
      Communicating Legacy: Media, Memory, and Harvey Milk examines publicly available media, artifacts and events in service of remembering Harvey Milk, who in 1977 became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Although he addressed issues of a diverse constituency, Milk is often remembered for demanding gay rights, his co-authorship of the San Francisco’s Human Rights Ordinance, and a successful campaign against the passage of Proposition 6 in 1978, a state proposition to prohibit gay men and lesbian women from working in public schools. His political career ended weeks later, when Milk was assassinated, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by former city supervisor and colleague Dan White. Forms of public and popular media addressing the remembrance of Milk and communicating his legacy include: journalism, books, documentary and fiction film, public art, theatrical and musical performances, memorials, commemorations, public history exhibitions, as well as types of legacy-naming. I term this media material media memoria – material in service of remembering. Through a mix of textual methods (visual/narrative/discourse), fieldwork (participant observation, interviewing) and archival/historical research methods, I examine how Milk media memoria create representations and narratives of Harvey Milk. I focus on how these representations narratives are used over time in the construction, negotiation and maintenance of local, LGBTQIA+ and eventually a larger public memory of Harvey Milk. This project is a mix of history, memory, and media analysis. It is written as an overlapping chronology, so the reader can experience the mediated communication of Milk’s legacy as it moves forward through time. It is situated within the study of media and communication but is interdisciplinary in that it finds inspiration from memory studies, film and media studies, museum and exhibition studies, and public history – all areas in which communication with a public, and mediated communication, play integral parts of collective memory narrative building. Communicating Legacy: Media, Memory and Harvey Milk aspires to be a contribution toward a more comprehensive history of the memory of Milk. The project concludes with a summary of the core and layered Milk memory narratives, a look at the key memory keepers and institutional players in Milk memory maintenance, and a discussion of the future of Milk memory. Through a discussion of how media memoria communicate the legacy of Harvey Milk, the dissertation adds to scholarly knowledge about how collective memory of public figures is constructed in American culture. Additionally, the dissertation works toward resolving deficiencies in research addressing LGBTQIA+ collective memory studies.