From Visions & Voices

Final Days of Visions and Voices

nhprc-logo-mAfter 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 previously hidden photographic and audiovisual (av) collections in our archives.

The goals of the project were ambitious, but the project team pulled it off with flying (rainbow!) colors. By the end of the nearly two-year project, the team surpassed the goal of surveying 200 linear feet (LF) of archival materials, having surveyed a total of 257.35 LF and partially surveyed about 69.2 LF. In addition, the project team surpassed the processing goal of 150 LF, having processed 177.18 LF as well as posted and updated 134 collection catalog records out of a goal of 100. The project has also added approximately 28 new Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) compliant records to the GLBT Historical Society website (DACS is a descriptive standard for archival collections), as well as 28 catalog records and finding aids to the Online Archive of California, a website resource to archival collections across the state. Finally, the project team created a digitization priority list for each of the collections surveyed and/or processed during this project.

Roz Joseph photographs (#2010-08)

These goals could not have been reached were it not for the help of numerous supporters: archivists Marjorie Bryer and Juliet Demeter laid a strong foundation for the project in its first year, setting the standards for the remainder of project, while former directors Paul Boneberg and Daryl Carr managed the details of the grant contract. Current Executive Director Terry Beswick and Deputy Director/Bookkeeper Daniel Bao oversaw the final stages and completion of the project. The GLBT Historical Society also wishes to thank the numerous volunteers who contributed to the progress of this grant project throughout its two-year duration. Thank you to this wonderful team; Visions and Voices could not have been completed without you.

In reflecting on the progress and results of Visions and Voices, what stood out most is the extraordinary diversity of LGBTQ communities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the variety of photographic and av materials housed here at the archives. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak in front of a large audience at the Society of American Archivists Annual General Meeting. In talking about my experiences working on Visions and Voices, I articulated the ways this project highlights the wide range of subjects covered by our collections, including materials relating to eroticism and sexual orientation; gender identity and expression; and radical activism. The project is noteworthy for illustrating the value of including all stories and experiences within the historical record, even those deemed controversial by mainstream society.

One of the first collections I worked with, the Gene Weber slides, photographs, and artifacts (#1993-22), for example, documents the life of a prominent gay investment banker living in San Francisco throughout the 1970s and 80s. According to my research, which included testimony from people who knew him or followed his career, Weber had three main interests that appear throughout his collection: photography, travel, and bondage and sadomasochism (BDSM, S/M). Within the Weber collection, there is extensive visual documentation of one of Weber’s most well-known photo series—scuba divers fisting in the Caribbean—as well as numerous photographs of a BDSM dungeon later published in Drummer magazine. On the surface, these images are unusual and, to some, shocking or controversial, but they are nevertheless significant historical sources. The fisting slides remain quite famous in the S/M scene, and the published dungeon photos helped popularize BDSM culture to a wider audience via print documentation. In conjunction with Weber’s other photographs (mostly artful travel scenes from his numerous trips around the world), this collection not only represents the complexities found within the broader Vision and Voices project but reveals the range of experiences, cultures, and interests within LGBTQ communities.

Gene Weber slides, photographs and artifacts (#1993-22)
Crawford Wayne Barton collection (#1993-11)
Crawford Wayne Barton collection (#1993-11)

In working with Weber’s and other photographic and av collections included in Visions and Voices, I rooted my archival decisions in the pursuit of creating a more inclusive historical record while being mindful of the diversity of LGBTQ communities. One of Vision and Voices’ main objectives was to bring to light collections that contribute to documenting and preserving the stories, activities, and experiences of the queer past. Without the generous support of this NHPRC grant, these stories would still be inaccessible and stashed away indefinitely in the quiet depths of the archives. The GLBT Historical Society is tremendously grateful for the opportunities that NHPRC has provided to its archives, which will contribute to the preservation of our history and further LGBTQ scholarship for generations to come.

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 feat; with all the inventorying, tracking, sorting, and barcoding of materials, the archives have been swirling with activity, and it’s been a mix of serious diligence and energetic anticipation.

As the NHPRC Visions & Voices project winds down – and the move rapidly approaches – I have been busy tying up loose ends around the archives, locating any and all collections that have yet to be formally accessioned and cataloged; leave no collection unaccounted for! And with the help of archives staff Alex Barrows and volunteer Richard Leadbetter, we’ve officially accessioned 5 new collections in 2016, including the Society of Gay and Lesbian Composers records (2016-05), Larry Berner collection (2016-02), and the Marcia Munson Lesbian Polyamory Reader papers (2016-01).

ESP Gallery front window; ESP photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
ESP Gallery front window; ESP photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Collection donors play a huge role in the success of the GLBT Historical Society’s mission to interpret LGBTQ history and make it accessible to all. Not simply the originator or source of collections, donors possess valuable contextual  information about their collection materials, such as names of persons in photographs, the year a film was created, or general subjects that inform a collection’s broader historical significance.

In my quest to leave no collection unaccounted for before the big move, I came across a mysterious box on the shelves simply labeled “queer artists”. This single box filled with a binder of photos, postcards, and press materials had no deed of gift or other documentation explaining who donated them, what they were, and where they came from; this presented an incredible challenge in moving forward with cataloging the collection. But piece by piece, Richard and I began making sense of the box’s contents. The gallery name “ESP” showed up a lot, as well as the name “Matthew Pawlowski”. Through the power of the internet, I tracked down Pawlowski, shot him an email, and through conversation discovered he was indeed the original donor of the collection, materials he explained were a gathering of photographs and ephemera from the former Mission District art gallery ESP, which he started in 1996.

Crowd in front of art piece by Jim Winters; ESP photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Crowd in front of art piece by Jim Winters; ESP photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

To help identify people, places, and events in the collection, Pawlowski agreed to come down to the archives and revisit his collection. From the point of sitting down, opening the files, and seeing his photographs for the first time in over a decade, I could sense the emotion and nostalgia sweeping through Pawlowski, whose life was once so closely intertwined with these materials. He went through each photo, told me the names of individuals shown, what the exhibits were, and the broader network of galleries and artists working together in the Mission District during this time, or what is now better known as the Mission School art movement.  Pawlowski remembered what seemed like every detail: who had passed away between now and then, what artists had gone on to do other projects, the dates of certain exhibits. And from this vast wealth of knowledge, Pawlowski transformed the perception of this collection from a once mysterious group of photos and ephemera sitting on the archives shelf to an extremely dynamic, historically rich record of queer and queer-friendly artists whose mark on the San Francisco art scene 20 years ago still reverberates today.

Sticker show at ESP Gallery; ESP Photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Sticker show at ESP Gallery; ESP Photographs and ephemera (#2016-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

As the ESP photographs and ephemera collection (2016-03) has shown me, working with collection donors does not begin and end with the transfer of their materials to the archives; it is an evolving relationship that fosters conversation, collaboration, and cooperation between the archives staff and collection creators. Together, we shape a more accurate account of the past, benefiting all individuals who seek to understand truth in history.


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.

Marcus and Matthew of Glendale, 1973; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus and Matthew of Glendale, 1973; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

In other exciting news, Visons and Voices is proud to announce the Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03), now fully processed and available to researchers in the GLBT Historical Society Archives. Coming in at just over 43 linear feet, this is one of the archives’ larger collections and includes an array of Mister Marcus’ personal and professional materials: photographs, memorabilia, correspondence, awards, press packets, clothing, and more, highlighting Marcus’ deep and dedicated involvement within the leather community, the Imperial Court System, and his well-known weekly column in the Bay Area Reporter, which he wrote for over 38 years from 1971-2009. Additionally, Marcus contributed articles and photographs to Drummer Magazine, The Leather Journal, and many other publications, in addition to being a frequent judge at Mr. Leather, Mr. Drummer, and International Mr. Leather contests (among others).

Marcus and Sarria, ca. 1976; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus and Sarria, ca. 1976; Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Beside his expansive work within the leather community, Hernandez was actively part of the Imperial Court of San Francisco, one of the largest and oldest LGBT organizations in the world. In 1972, Hernandez became the first Emperor of the Imperial Court, or Emperor I After Norton. During his reign, he established the Spoon Awards which were presented to individuals in 20 different categories for continuously “stirring the pot”. He continued his involvement with the Imperial Court throughout his life, judging contests for many years.

Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Emperor Marcus; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

His collection, which was donated to the GLBT Historical Society in 2010, is just over 43 linear feet and documents his life from the years 1933 to 2009. The materials have been arranged into “photographic and AV materials”, which make up the bulk of the collection, and “non-photographic and AV materials”. Included are: photographic prints, negatives, slides, floppy discs/compact discs, and VHS; memorabilia such as awards, contest programs, buttons, and books; personal papers including correspondence, ephemera and keepsakes, notebooks and schedules, and creative writing; professional papers, such as Bay Area Reporter columns and newspaper clippings authored by Mister Marcus; and textiles and apparel which include hats, watches, leather vests, and other related personal artifacts. A few of the collection’s photographs even document his childhood in the 1930s through his time serving in the US military in the early 1950s and up into his early years living in San Francisco in the 1970s. These early photographs help reveal the more personal side of Marcus’ history, something that is less evident in his professional work.

Marcus ca. 1934; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Marcus ca. 1934; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
"To Mother, With love always, Gily" from Lenggries, Germany July 4, 1952; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
“To Mother, With love always, Gily” from Lenggries, Germany July 4, 1952; Box 1, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

One of the GLBT Historical Society’s long-time volunteers, Richard Leadbetter, spent hours upon hours sorting through Marcus’ photographs – hundreds of rolls and prints documenting leather events and contests,

Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society
Carton 21, Marcus Hernandez (Mister Marcus) collection (#2011-03). Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society

Imperial Court events, and Marcus’ circle of friends. When the photos were finally sorted and all other materials re-housed, preserved, and documented, Leadbetter and I created a collection finding aid and catalog record. Both those documents can be found by searching “Marcus Hernandez” on the GLBT Historical Society website’s “Search Our Archives” section.

If there’s any takeaway from the Marcus collection (and there are many!) it’s that Marcus seemed to have a part in everything LGBT-related in San Francisco. Photographs and references of him pop up everywhere, from his time working in the Mayor’s office in the early 1970s to those many Pride Parades in which he rode on his own float. For over 40 year, his presence in San Francisco put many at ease, while his quick wit earned him the respect of many. But he is not just a writer, an advocate, an Imperial Court Emperor; he is a legend, he is the one and only Mister Marcus.

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 LGBT events, contests, fairs, and performances in the Bay Area, including: Gay Softball League events; the Bare Chest, Cheeks & Chaps, Mr. South of Market, Mr. San Francisco Cowboy, Mr San Francisco Leather, Leather Daddy, International Ms Leather, International Mr. Drummer, and bodybuilding contests; events at the Eagle; Imperial Court coronations and celebrations; the Closet Ball; Folsom, Castro, Dore Alley and Mission Street Fairs; and Pride Parades. There is also video from the 1993 March on Washington and footage from bike and leather clubs and drag shows.

The BML Videos collection was donated to the GLBT Historical Society in 2014 and with it came, thankfully, an inventory of contents created by the collection donor (when a collection comes with any sort of inventory, archivists are generally happy campers). This inventory contains details about individual recordings that only the creator could know: who shot what footage, raw versus edited content, and exact video dates. As a research tool and supplemental guide, this inventory not only reveals valuable contextual information about the collection itself, but it also provides a useful map to help researchers better navigate the details of each recording.

But like many creator-produced collection inventories, the valuable information it contains doesn’t necessarily make practical sense to the public. To address this, an archival finding aid was created that not only contains basic collection information, such as the scope of the collection and how large it is, but also a simplified inventory, or container listing, that one can utilize to better understand the potential research value of the collection. This finding aid container listing is enhanced by viewing the donor’s inventory, making for a robust, multi-faceted collection guide when combined. It is a nice compromise between the MPLP practices we utilize here at the GLBT Historical Society archives and the more detailed item-level description that most archivists simply don’t have the luxury to carry out.

With the collection now fully processed, the BML Videos videotape collection (#2014-10) is open to researchers in the GLBT Historical Society archives. Guides for the collection can be found at the archives search page. To view items from the collection or the donor-created videotape inventory, please contact the archives team.


Film still from the 1979 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)
Film still from the 1974 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)

One of the city’s most celebrated events, the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration is the culmination of LGBT Pride month events that take place over the month of June. More than just a parade, this whirlwind of rainbow flags, wild costumes, and celebratory smiles has been overflowing with love vibes since its beginning in 1970, when it was simply called the Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-in. Over the last 45 years, the parade’s incarnations – Christopher Street West (1972), Gay Freedom Day (1973-1980), International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade (1981-1994), and as we know it today, the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration (1995-present) – have upheld, at their core, the fundamental human right to love and be loved, without regard to gender, sexuality, creed, or politics. It is a day to celebrate both individualism and community, to share support and shout out loud, “Equality Without Exception!”

Here in the GLBTHS archives, snapshots – both figuratively and literally – of San Francisco Pride history can be found in nearly every collection. When the parade first began in the 1970s, a man named Lou Perica (#1991-15) took it upon himself to film some of the early parades. Spanning 1974 to 1981, Perica’s various Pride Parade films reveal a sampling of the figures, organizations, costumes and causes that have become so integral to LGBTQ history.

Film still of Harvey Milk, 1975 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)
Film still of Harvey Milk, 1978 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)

Perica’s footage of Harvey Milk seems to evoke the feeling that we are right alongside his convertible, up at the spectator line, glimpsing Milk as his political career was evolving, before and after the mustache. In what would be Milk’s last Pride Parade appearance before his tragic 1978 assassination, Perica’s film gives viewers today a glimpse of this charismatic individual. Through the Visions and Voices project, and with the digitization leadership of GLBTHS volunteer John Raines, we are able to bring to life the spirit of Milk within the context of this celebration.

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, 1981 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)
Film still of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, 1981 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Lou Perica films (#1991-15)

The parade is not designed to discriminate; both participants and spectators come together during this one special day a year to celebrate the LGBTQ community. Perica’s films capture much of this communal spirit, placing viewers within a myriad of marching contingencies, from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the Dykes on Bikes and the Rainbow Deaf Society.

High Tech Gays, 1989  International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Spencer N. Nutting photographs (#1990-18)
ACT UP, 1992 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Mark C. Goniwiecha photographs (#1998-15)
1992 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Mark C. Goniwiecha photographs (#1998-15)

But films are not the only medium here in the GLBTHS archives in which past Pride Parades take form. With the growing prevalence of compact cameras in the 1970s and 80s, photo snapshots and the documentation of the day-to-day became more commonplace, and by the late 1980s and early 90s, the vast diversity of San Francisco Pride participants becomes crystal clear. In the Spencer N. Nutting photographs (#1990-18), for instance, images of the San Jose group the High Tech Gays marching in the 1989 Pride Parade are shown embracing the parade’s long held tradition of including witty yet poignant hand signs, with one reading “Nobody DOS it Better!” Similarly, the Mark C. Goniwiecha photographs (#1998-15) include the ACT UP contingency with a sign demanding “Earn Your Attitude ACT UP”, as well as the Stop AIDS Project – perhaps embracing the then popular Right Said Fred song – sporting a “No one is TOO SEXY for a condom”. Another Pride-rich collection, the Sabrina Mazzoni photographs (#2006-03), contains over one hundred various snapshots of different San Francisco Pride weekend events in the early 1990s (“Don’t Ask – It’s Clear We’re Queer!”/ “Don’t Tell – Thank God We’re Gay!”).

ca.1993 International Lesbian & Gay Freedom Day Parade, Sabrina Mazzoni photographs (#2006-03)

Without a doubt, the sampling of collections mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg in the GLBTHS archives’ documentation of the San Francisco Pride Parade. With this year’s event taking place in just a few days, one can look to these films and photographs not just as historical documents with enduring value (of course, they are), but as a reminder of how strong the LGBTQ community voice once was, is today, and will be long into the future.

To view any of these collections or discover others, stop in the archives on the  1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, or make an appointment.

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.

Tracking Down Deeds of Gift

Thanks to the Visions and Voices grant, I was able to enlist the temporary help of Alex Barrows in tracking down deeds of gift for 110 GLBTHS photographic and AV collections. Within an archival institute like the GLBTHS, why do deeds even matter, and what is involved in obtaining one? Alex eloquently explains their necessity in the post below:

 During the months of April and May, I’ve had the opportunity to work under the GLBT Historical Society Project Archivist, Joanna Black, to track down missing deeds of gift for select collections pertinent to our NHPRC Visions and Voices project. My responsibilities for this include locating contact information for collection donors as well as undertaking provenance research both within and outside of collection files. At times, the simple task of double-checking and serendipitously coming across floating deeds helped the project along.

Signing a deed of gift is an invaluable step in donating materials to archives, as it documents the legal transfer of personal property from an individual or organization to the archives. As an instrument in writing, the deed of gift not only determines the levels of access and copyright status of the items being donated, but it also includes descriptive contextual information like the name of donor(s), their relationship to the records being donated, the date of the transfer of title, details on the materials to be donated, any restrictions of use, disposal criteria and, finally, the signatures of both the donor and the recipient (archives). Written in consistent and unambiguous language, the deed is a document that is in the best interest of both the donor(s) and the archives. While it is inherently formal, it can be customized to reflect any of the donor’s wishes.

For example, if the donor feels that restrictions must be put into place to protect the privacy of individuals named in a collection, it can be specified as such in the deed of gift. If a donor would prefer that any residual materials or items that we cannot keep (ie, duplicates, medical records) be returned to them, we can include the appropriate language to honor such a request in the deed. If a donor wishes to retain copyright for the items they have donated, we can also make this explicitly clear in the document. Overall, the deed is an opportunity for the donor’s needs to be expressed through clear and enduring documentation, which will continue to guide how a collection is maintained on our shelves.

Ideally, a deed of gift is intentionally written up and signed by both a representative of the archives and the donor after a period of consultation and negotiation between both parties. In working on this project, I find it is important to accept the fact that the more formal gestures of archival practice are sometimes put aside during times of crisis and grief—themes that make up the historical context in which the GLBT Historical Society was originally founded. “Informal” archiving is sometimes necessary when histories are in immediate jeopardy and face the perils of destruction or erasure. Retrogressively “formalizing” this paperwork is likewise a complicated endeavor, particularly in locating past donors and in summoning up difficult, if not displaced, memories.

In going over the collections with missing deeds (which started out as 130 collections), we were able to weed out about 20 items. Artificially-created collections, for example, such as our ephemera collections, do not need deeds of gifts. Items that were abandoned, dumped at the archives’ door or that cannot be traced back to their donors do not require deeds.

As of the third week of May: 11 deeds out of the remaining 110 deeds were found. 5 out of the 110 deeds were signed and returned to us.

For me, it has been somewhat exciting to contact people I think of as “collection celebrities”—donors of collections I particularly admire, archivists of GLBT histories and names I have only learnt about in history books. Overall, the Deed of Gift project has been a key tool not only in reaching out to donors of the past and present but in educating ourselves and our patrons of the importance of this kind of paperwork.

– Alex Barrows

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…


Visions and Voices of GLBT History

It is with great excitement that the GLBT Historical Society announces Visions and Voices of GLBT History, an archival survey and processing project in the GLBTHS archives. In what began August 2014 through a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), Visions and Voices is uncovering the GLBTHS’ rich photographic and audiovisual collections to increase public access to these materials. The project entails a complete survey of the Archive’s photographic and audiovisual collections as well as processing three quarters of these collections. Additionally, approximately 100 new catalog records will be added to the GLBTHS public online database, with numerous new collection finding aids added to the Online Archive of California. Recommendations for digitization are also being recorded and will serve to inform future GLBTHS digitization efforts.

Crawford Wayne Barton collection (#1993-11)
Crawford Wayne Barton collection (#1993-11)

Former Project Archivist Juliet Demeter and former Managing Archivist Marjorie Bryer set a strong pace for this project during its launch in 2014. Currently, the new Project Archivist JoJo Black continues their efforts by ushering the project into 2015. This blog will serve to reveal the insights, gems, stories, and successes discovered throughout this important NHPRC grant-funded project. Stay tuned!