Patricia O'Leary

Imagine living in a place for ten years. How many papers, photos, memories, do you have built up? Did you create a system for organizing these things? Are they stuck in boxes until you randomly find them again? Now, imagine 45 years. My first day at Mixed Blood, I sat here, looking at a desk full of a conglomeration of memorabilia. When you are cleaning your own home, you can recognize what you are looking at. I sat there, staring at a mountain, with zero knowledge of the terrain.

Before I became an archival intern at Mixed Blood, I worked on a similar project in southern California. I sat in a library and quietly played music while I sorted through stacks of newsletters and newspaper articles. That was a historical society, this is a historical theatre. I explored closets and cabinets to find remote control cars and a fake pile of fecal matter. I worked, while listening to people singing and rehearsing. I found strange photos and videos of a chicken in an elevator, and a commercial for frosted flakes. Even more interesting, I found photos of people like me, from the Latinx community. I saw photos of African Americans, American Indians, Southeast Asians, and so on. I found photos of powerful people in wheelchairs, of people using sign language, of people with different abilities and backgrounds creating a beautiful cacophony of performances.

Yes, I was overwhelmed on the first day, but I was also inspired. If I asked you to find a photo of you as a kid, from your fourth birthday party, how soon could you find it? If staff from Mixed Blood asked me to find a photo from a show performed 25 years ago, how soon could I deliver it? This project is quite an endeavor, but it is an endeavor I can proudly partake in.

-Patricia O’Leary