Perhaps an LGBTQ ancestor left behind a collection of love letters like Willa Cather or Charity Bryant. Or maybe there is an existing dairy confessing details of their love life. An ancestor may have been mentioned in a queer organization’s newsletter. With luck and exhaustive research, unique treasures might be found at an LGBTQ Archive. There are dozens of LGTBQ Archives domestically and internationally. Below is but a shortlist.
One of the earliest LGBTQ Archives was created by Magnus Hirschfeld, a gay Jewish German sexologist and medical doctor. He founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in Germany in 1897 which advocated for LGBT Human Rights. He also established the Institute of Sexual Science in 1919 promoting sex education, contraception, advice for gay and transgender people, and women’s rights. In 1933 Nazi stormtroopers raided the Institute. The books burning in newsreels of the day were those of Hirschfeld’s library. The Nazis also used Hirschfeld’s client list to create the “pink lists” to identify homosexuals for death in the camps. Magnus Hirschfeld was a great pioneer of LGBTQ rights, research, and advocate for freedom. You can find out more about Magnus at Making Gay History – The Podcast.
Today, one of the largest online archives is the Gale – Archives of Sexuality and Gender.
“Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender program spans the sixteenth to twentieth centuries and is the largest digital collection of historical primary source publications relating to the history and study of sex, sexuality, and gender research and gender studies research. Documentation covering disciplines such as social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) communities around the world are included, as well as rare and unique books on sex and sexuality from the sciences to the humanities to support research and education.”
It also holds items on political and social organizations founded by LGBTQ folk, material drawn from hundreds of institutions both international and local grassroots, extensive coverage of the AIDS crisis. The Gale holds newsletters, newspapers, and periodicals from Latvia to Zimbabwe.
Locally I have access to the San Francisco based GLBT Historical Society Museum & Archive. They hold approximately 800 collections of personal papers, photographs, audiovisual recordings, and organizational records. They have unpublished material such as letters, diaries, and scrapbooks documenting the lives of both average people and community leaders. And they house over 70 linear feet of ephemera which include – 5,000 periodical titles, tens of thousands of photographs, approximately 1,000 t-shirts, thousands of posters, more than 500 oral histories, approximately 1,000 hours of recorded sound, and approximately 1,000 hours of film and video.
Look for an LGBTQ Archive in your area by using ProQuest or NUCMC. If you know of other LGBTQ Archives, please post the name and URL in the comments.