Stories From 27 Years at the Historical Society

by Daniel Bao

In the Spring of 1990, I found myself sitting in the dark wood-paneled living room of a San Francisco Victorian filled to the brim with banker’s boxes. I was a graduate student in Stanford Professor Estelle Freedman’s class on the History of Sexuality in America, and she’d suggested I do research at the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, as we were then called.

Bill Walker, one of the Historical Society’s founders, helpfully brought me a box filled with 1950s issues of ONE magazine, and I spent the afternoon reading them, awed by the fact that “real live homosexuals” had organized and published a journal that long ago. Little did I know how my life would be changed by that afternoon’s research.

A few months later, I was in the basement of the Redstone Building in the Mission, having joined the Archives Committee of the GLBT Historical Society. It was exciting to be in an official office space, though the street odors wafting from the emergency escape door made it clear that the society had a ways to go. By 1995, our offices were above ground on Market Street and in 2003 we moved to Mission Street, where we stayed until last year.

With the Times

The Historical Society’s moves were shadowed by my own. After serving on the Archives Committee for a few years, I found myself on the board of directors for 10 years, then served as acting executive director for a few months while we looked for a permanent ED. As soon as our new ED started in early 2004, I became the bookkeeper — and more recently was named finance director under our new executive director, Terry Beswick.

My 27 years with the Historical Society have been more than interesting. Sometimes calm and quiet, and sometimes like a crazy roller coaster with no brakes. Looking back, I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish — and proud, too. I look forward to the next 27 years and am confident that with support from the City and the community, we’ll be able to create the world-class LGBTQ public history center we are planning through our Vision 2020 initiative.

Daniel Bao is finance director for the GLBT Historical Society.

NOTE: Reprinted from the July 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here. For a free subscription to the newsletter, click here.