Open House: Behind the Scenes

Saturday, March 18th
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

GLBT Historical Society Archives
989 Market St., Lower Level, San Francisco
Free Admission: Reservation Required

The GLBT Historical Society preserves one of the world’s largest collections of LGBTQ historical materials. The archives are used by historians, writers, filmmakers and others researchers, yet they remain little known to the wider community. This special open house will offer members of the public a behind-the-scenes tour, including a rare opportunity to visit the archival reserve normally accessible only to Historical Society staff.

Managing archivist Joanna Black will provide an introduction to the collections, the activities and the uses of the archives. Visitors also will have a chance to see highlights from the holdings that have never before been displayed publicly. Guided tours will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. To reserve a free ticket, RSVP no later than 3:00 p.m. on March 17. Click here to make a reservation.


Our collections

794[1]The archives of the GLBT Historical Society contain approximately 800 collections of personal papers, photographs, audiovisual recordings, and organizational records. These collections include unpublished material such as letters, diaries and scrapbooks documenting the lives of both average people and community leaders. They also include the records of many community organizations, businesses and political campaigns. The archives hold over 70 linear feet of ephemera; 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. The archives also has extensive holdings of historic textiles, fine and graphic arts, and artifacts.


Research hours

All visits to the archives are by appointment. To request an appointment, please email the reference staff.

GLBT Historical Society members. Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nonmembers. Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Hours are subject to change. Please check our calendar for the latest updates.




The archives are at 989 Market Street, Lower Level, in downtown San Francisco. By BART: Take any San Francisco train to Powell Station, then walk one long block west toward Sixth Street. By Metro: Take any line to Powell Station, then walk one long block west toward Sixth Street. By Streetcar: Take Line F to Market & Taylor (westbound) or Market & Sixth (eastbound). By Bus: Take Lines 6, 7, or 9 to Market & Taylor (westbound) or Lines 6, 9, or 21 to Market & Sixth (eastbound). By Car: Metered street parking is available, but may be very difficult. There is a valet pay lot off Stevenson Street. Self-parking is available at the Fifth & Mission civic garage.


Donating materials

The GLBT Historical Society focuses its collections on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer life in the wider San Francisco Bay area and Northern California. Currently, we are seeking accessions to fill particular gaps in our holdings. We seek materials documenting LGBT life prior to the 1970s, as well as LGBT people of color, lesbian and bisexual women of all social/cultural backgrounds, LGBT working class communities, and bisexual and transgender people. To inquire about donating a collection or for more information, please email Joanna Black.


Search the collections

Many of our collections can be searched right from your web browser. Choose from the following:



Research guides

The following subject guides cover frequently researched topics in our collections; these guides are by no means comprehensive, but intended to showcase some of our collections’ offerings as well as outside resources.



jojoVisions and voices of GLBT history

Managing archivist Joanna Black shares her latest finds among the media collections.

Final Days of Visions and Voices - After nearly two years of meticulous work, the GLBT Historical Society is pleased to announce that the Visions and Voices of GLBT History project has been officially completed! Funded by a grant from the National Historic Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), Visions and Voices has been a major project to survey, process, and make publicly available …
Collection Donors: the Key to Context - Over the last few months here in the GLBT Historical Society Archives, we’ve been focusing the bulk of our efforts on preparing to move the collections from our current space at 657 Mission Street to a much larger location down the road at 989 Market Street. A collection move of this size is no small …
Here Comes Mister Marcus - After far too many moons since a Visions and Voices update, we are back with some exciting news; the GLBT Historical Society has a new website! So go ahead and explore the sections, click on links, and see what amazing virtual nuggets of LGBT history await you. In other exciting news, Visons and Voices is …
The BML Videos collection now open to researchers - One of the larger collections that the NHPRC grant has brought to light in the archives is a videotape collection from the now disbanded group BML Videos. Coming in at just over 16 linear feet, this collection contains over 400 VHS and SVHS tapes created mainly during the mid-1980s through the late 1990s, documenting numerous …