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LGBTQ Commercial and Nightlife Spaces in Philadelphia: Mapping and Analyzing the 1995 to Present

Project: 8
Name: Jason Orne, PhD (; 210.748.4948)
Department: Sociology


This project supports the creation of an original dataset of LGBTQ commercial establishments in Philadelphia in the contemporary period of 1995 to present. Orne and the student will conduct archival research and interviews with key business owners and employees to census all LGBTQ establishments form 1995 to present in Philadelphia. This data will be added to an existing historical dataset from 1960 to 1995 that has already been gathered by Orne and collaborators using prior archival and interview work. The data will allow a number of important sociological questions to be answered. First, it will increase our understanding of the spatial distribution and survival of subcultural minority businesses, especially how intersecting axes of gender and race might affect the survival of these businesses. Second, urban sociological theories of neighborhood change assert the importance of sexual minority businesses and clusters to gentrification. This data will allow the empirical historical evaluation of these theories in the case of Philadelphia. Finally, Orne's community partner in this project, the William Way LGBTQ Community Center (WayGay), intends to use the data as a centerpiece for a digital humanities/public sociology website showcasing the LGBTQ communities' impact on Philadelphia's development and LGBTQ history. This dataset will be the first longitudinal census of LGBTQ commercial establishments and nightlife within a city.

Associated Independent Study

The independent study would focus on the development of gay neighborhoods: their history, development, role within LGBTQ communities, and trajectory. Earlier urban sociological work on cultural and ethnic enclaves will be discussed as well. The student will read such work as sociologist Amin Ghazani's "There Goes The Gayborhood," Jason Orne's "Boystown: Sex and Community in Chicago," literary critic Samuel Delaney's "Times Square Red/Times Square Blue," historian John D'emilio's "Sexual Politics/Sexual Communities," and others.

Gained Experience

First, the student will gain experience with archival research, working alongside Dr. Orne to create the dataset. Second, if time allows, the student will also get experience with the spatial analysis program ArcGIS, as this program will be used to conduct analysis on the dataset. Third, it would be possible for the student to also develop a research project, such as for an honors thesis or independent project, using the data. Finally, the student will gain contacts and experience working with Philadelphia LGBTQ nonprofits and businesses, such as the William Way Community Center and the John G. Wilcox LGBTQ archives.


This dataset will be used as the foundation for two papers. The dataset is also planned to be a part of a community engagement project working with the William Way LGBTQ Community center.


The student will be working alongside Dr. Orne doing archival research tasks:

  • Reading, sorting, and organizing archival documents and ephemera (posters, flyers, etc)
  • Creating and maintaining a master list of checked documents
  • Working with archivists to locate materials
  • Determining the authenticity and veracity of the material's information
  • Using supplementary materials to determine demographics of patrons, such as race and gender
  • Entering data in spreadsheets and ArcGIS
  • Preliminary tasks for analysis in ArcGIS


Student workroom at Dept. of Sociology Drexel University and the John G. Wilcox LGBTQ archives in center city Philadelphia.


Ideally, student will work with Dr. Orne in the afternoons of Summer term at the archives. Schedule is flexible as long as it is during the archive's hours.

Interview Availability

April 10, April 11, April 12