From Progress Report

Notable Collections in April & May

Throughout the months of April and May, Visions and Voices uncovered more meaningful GLBTHS collections that capture much of the everyday social and cultural lives of LGBTQ individuals in the 20th century. During this two month working period, I advanced the Visions and Voices project by surveying 14 new collections, processing 12, and creating and posting finding aids for 4 collections of photographic and AV materials, bringing the project totals within reach of its stated goals. Progress!

KQEDTheCastroDVDIn early April, I set my sights on processing the KQED ‘The Castro’ videotapes (#2000-63). Containing 40 one inch reels of B rolls and interviews from KQED’s documentary on the Castro neighborhood – the third episode in KQED’s series “Neighborhoods: The Hidden Cities of San Francisco” – the footage was utilized to create a cohesive narrative which aired in 1998, two years after filming took place. Highlighting subjects such as the Council on Religion and the Homosexual (CRH) police raid in 1965, the assassinations of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mascone in 1978, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, “The Castro” integrates interviews with residents of the neighborhood to document the varied experiences of former Irish residents, gay men, lesbians, and queer youth. For more information on the program, please visit the KQED “Making of the Castro” page.

Another collection that emerged from the archives in April was the Harold O’Neal film collection (#2002-03) documenting the life’s work of filmmaker Harold O’Neal who started filming in 1939 and continued through the 1980s.  His films contain material about a wide variety of subjects on gay and general interest themes, including footage of the relocation of Japanese Americans to concentration camps in World War II, female impersonators performing at the Beige Room in San Francisco, gay men socializing in the 1940s, and gay freedom day parades from 1978-1980.

Because the O’Neal collection is in the process of being digitized (a separate project that is not part of the Visions and Voices NHPRC grant), I felt it an ideal opportunity for me to give the physical collection proper archival documentation. As of June, this 5.25 linear feet collection has been completely surveyed and is now awaiting completion of a finding aid, which will be posted on the GLBTHS section of the Online Archive of California as soon as it’s completed.

from the Bay Area Reporter article "Life beyond IML" by Mister Marcus
from the Bay Area Reporter article “Life beyond IML” by Mister Marcus

Moving on to May, an interesting group of photographs from the Koala’s Motorcycle Club Run (#2015-12) came across my processing tables. Although the collection is small – only 6 black and white photos dating from about 1967 – I was struck by the Koala’s members, including Peter Fiske, who are candidly socializing outdoors, dressed in leather caps and boots, denim vests and jeans. Surprisingly, while researching the history of the Koala’s Motorcycle Club, I came across an article written by Mister Marcus in the Bay Area Reporter titled “Life beyond IML”; in it, an image is used that closely resembles one of those found in the GLBTHS Koala Motorcycle Club Run collection that I was then working on. The caption for the image in the article reads:

“Group photo of the Koala’s Motorcycle Club of San Francisco in 1967. Note certain men with run buttons on their caps – a trademark among bike clubs in those days. Also note lower right hand photo of a much younger Peter Fiske. photo: The Late Henri Leleu”.

This one caption helped me to understand so much contextual information about this small collection of photographs: the year, names, and photographer of the images, which I then integrated into the catalog record.  Researching is always a vital part in processing any archival collection, but rarely do such specific details surface.

With so many interesting collections emerging and more collections to be discovered, Visions and Voices is proving an extremely valuable tool in shedding light on forgotten and fading narratives. Other noteworthy collections that have surfaced in April and May include: the William A. Longen videotapes (#2008-31) of KTVU news segments documenting LGBTQ communities and events from 1977 to 1997 within the Bay Area; the Audrey Joseph collection of VHS videotapes (#2008-30), trophies, posters, and ephemera documenting past International Ms. Leather and Ms. SF Leather events, International Mr. Leather and Mr. SF Leather events, Drummer events, and Club Townsend; and photographic and AV accretions to the William Struzenberg papers which contain various materials reflecting Struzenberg’s life as a student and artist, as well as his involvement with AIDS activism in ACT UP Golden Gate and ACT NOW.

Notable Collections in March

color photographs from the exhibition ‘55 x 1’ by Victor Arimondi (#2000-13)
Color photographs from the exhibition ‘55 x 1’ by Victor Arimondi (#2000-13)

March marked the 2nd month of my work on the NHPRC grant-funded project Visions and Voices in GLBT History. While immersing myself in archival materials the way an archivist often must (by painstakingly identifying, implementing, and documenting a logical physical and intellectual arrangement, among other things, in order to facilitate public access), it can be difficult to remain emotionless when examining evidence of the difficulties and struggles experienced by individuals of the past. One particular period in LGBTQ Bay Area history — the HIV/AIDS crisis beginning in the 1980s — permeates much of the narratives in the GLBTHS archives. Through looking at the photographs, videos, and listening to the audio recordings captured around this seminal period, it is obvious the depth of grief and anger felt by many who bore witness. And while the emotion is evident, preserved in the documents which serve often as outlets of grief, it is diverse, complicated, and in some primal way, beautiful.

Color photographs from the exhibition ‘55 x 1’ by Victor Arimondi
Color photographs from the exhibition ‘55 x 1’ by Victor Arimondi

In a collection of photographs by Vitorio (Victor) Arimondi (#2000-13), he employs an artful eye to memorialize male models who posed for his early photographs and later died from HIV/AIDS. In each image within this collection, an altar of sorts is set around a framed photograph of the late model, along with subtle reminders of the impact of AIDS. Another collection in the archives, the Molly Hogan videotapes (#1992-10), contains an array of videotapes documenting the vast effects of HIV/AIDS within Bay Area communities, from training videos of the grief group the Shanti Project to the closure of San Francisco bathhouses due to the city’s fear that the establishments encouraged the spread of HIV. With the loss of life as well as the loss of cultural and social outlets, HIV/AIDS threw a dark cloak over both space and time in San Franciscan LGBTQ communities.

An image from the John Osterkorn photograph portfolio
An image from the John Osterkorn photograph portfolio

It is stunning that in all the sadness of HIV/AIDS, there exists in LGBTQ communities a power to endure, act, and transform in a positive way. The John Osterkorn photograph portfolio (#2015-10) documents work produced through the group Visual Aid, which helps produce, present, and preserve work by artists affected by HIV/AIDS. Another collection, the David Bandy collection (#2002-30), documents concert promoter David Bandy’s intent to bring entertainment and social events to the public during a period of increasing communal grief.

As Visions and Voices forges on in the coming months, the complex narratives surrounding HIV/AIDS history in the Bay Area will continue to surface. It is my task to give them a louder, more public voice by protecting, preparing, and promoting their access to the public.

February’s Progress

GLBTHS Archives
GLBTHS Archives

When I began working on Visions and Voices in February 2015, the project’s goals had already been established: survey approximately 200 linear feet of AV and photographic materials; process approximately 150 linear feet of AV and photographic materials; update approximately 100 catalog records on the GLBTHS website; create and post EAD finding aids for those collections large enough to warrant them on the OAC website; and publicize the project and its methods. My predecessor, Juliet, had accomplished a great deal of work toward these goals, having already surveyed 63.3 linear feet of collection material, processed 40.4 linear feet, updated 31 catalog records, and added 18 records to the OAC, with over a quarter of the project completed by the time I took over.

GLBTHS video collection
GLBTHS video collection

I jumped right in on my first day, taking over where Juliet left off. First, I oriented myself within the GLBTHS archives, its physical set-up, and the GLBTHS collection databases. Then I began taking inventories of what specific collections had already been surveyed, processed, and posted online, in order to better understand the current state of Visions and Voices. By the end of February, my first month on the job, I had surveyed 33.25 linear feet, processed 27.2 linear feet, updated 23 catalog records, and added 2 new finding aids to OAC, in addition to what Juliet had already accomplished. During this time, I came across many fascinating collections, such as the Steven Grossman collection (#1996-39); the J. D. Wade photographs (#1996-43) that document the States Line Steamship Company picket during the late spring of 1969; a collection of World War II era photographs (#2000-23); and the Jeffrey Kriger photographs (#1995-10).

J.D. Wade photographs (#1996-43)
J.D. Wade photographs (#1996-43)

Between Juliet’s work and mine, Visions and Voices was on its way to being almost half complete as of March 1st. Now as I write this on April 1st, I can attest that March has been equally productive, despite the departure of the archive’s managing archivist, Marjorie Bryer, in late February. But what exactly surfaced in the archives during the month of March? What collections emerged from the controlled chaos of the stacks, in need of the kind of attention only an archivist can give? More on this soon…