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Often referred to as San Francisco's "queer Smithsonian," the GLBT Historical Society houses one of the world's largest collections of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical materials. The society's GLBT History Museum is the first full-scale, stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States.

Sponsorships: Museum sponsorship provides essential support to one the GLBT community’s most significant cultural institutions — and offers visibility and other benefits to sponsors. For full details, click here.

Membership & Donations: To become a member or make a donation, click here.

To read about the three main challenges currently facing the organization, including the search for a new home for our archives, the need to renew the lease for the GLBT History Museum, and our efforts to satisfy exploding interest in GLBT history, click here.

Monday – Saturday:
11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.

4127 18th St. • San Francisco


Matlovich Time Cover

Out of the Boxes and onto the Net!

We're digitizing our amazing audiovisual collections and putting them on the Internet for you to enjoy. Check out our first offering, the entire run of the 1980s radio series The Gay Life. Click here.GayBackMachine


Sponsors of the GLBT History Museum
City & County of San Francisco: Grants for the Arts

Presenting Sponsor
Bob Ross Foundation • City and County of San Francisco: Grants for the Arts • Council on Library and Information Resources • National Historical Publications and Records Commission • Steven Speier, in memory of David Thormann • Walgreens • Andreas Weigend

Platinum Sponsors
David R. Kessler, M.D. • Levi Strauss • Wells Fargo

Gold Sponsors
AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah Insurance Exchange • Badlands and Toad Hall • Al Baum and Robert Holgate • Beaux Bar and the Midnight Sun • John Bell and Jason Spicer • Harvey’s Restaurant • Tomlinson Holman • Human Rights Campaign • Chris Lewis and Todd Reasinger • Emily Rosenberg and Darlene de Manincor • Rick Stokes and Alex Kiforenko

Silver Sponsors
Bank of the West • Troy Barber and Dan Stewart • Tom Burtch and Neil Austen•Colla Voce • Community Thrift Store • Elisabeth Cornu • Peter Lundberg and James Mowdy • James Neale•Alfredo Perdroza•See’s Candies•Sterling Art Services • Brian Turner • Whole Foods

John Alecca • Nancy Andrews • Gary Booher • Paul Christensen • Gray Clossman • Community Safety Foundation • Diana Coopersmith • Robert Croonquist • William Dickey • Mark Dimunation • Robert Dockendorff • Calvin Doucet • Andrew Ferguson • Gary Gansle • Kevin Gerber • Jerome Goldstein • Tim Gullicksen • Eric Hallquist • Peter Hirsh and Michael Bakish • James Hormel and Michael Nguyen • John Howard • Mario Hubert • Jack Lasner • Jason Macario • Paul Margolis • Todd Martin • Michael Moniz • Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong • Trenton Norris • William Patterson • Ken Prag • Merle Rabine • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence • Rainbow Grocery Cooperative • Kerry Romesburg and Judy Romesburg • SF Gay Men’s Chorus • Gustavo Torres • Underglass Custom Framing • Burlington Willes • Jay Williams • Anders Winther and David Pike • Sondra Zambino

Donate to the GLBT Historical Society

Current Newsletter

Showing at the
GLBT History Museum

Queer Past

Main Gallery: Queer Past Becomes Present.

Front Gallery and Community Gallery: 30 Years of Collecting Art That Tells Our Stories.[NOTE: EXPLICIT CONTENT]

Other Current and Upcoming
Events and Programs

Information coming soon

Our 30th Anniversary

Blame Anita Bryant

by Linnea Due

GLBT Historical Society co-founder Greg Pennington moved to San Francisco in 1977. In June of that year, singer Anita Bryant spearheaded a repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Florida. “As the Chronicle headlined it,” Pennington says, “`5,000 Furious Gays March in San Francisco.’ Well, they marched for five days in a row. On the second night, I joined in.”

BryantFrom that point on, Pennington began investigating how gay news was reported in different publications. “I was already monitoring the Advocate,” he explains. “I started keeping track of periodicals. Gay Windows, The Washington Blade, Gay Community News. I started collecting publications and making chronologies.”

After Harvey Milk’s assassination, a group convened at the home of Scott Smith, Milk’s former partner. “That’s where I met Willie Walker,” says Pennington.

Walker explained to Pennington that he wanted to set up an archives, but he believed that its mission had to be broader than simply collecting materials. “He wanted to have educational programs and outreach,” says Pennington, who agreed—“I decided I would help him make it happen.” The two formed the San Francisco Periodical Archives.

Meanwhile, other groups were meeting, such as the Gay and Lesbian History Project. Most history project members were academics, who would meet to vet each other’s research. “Walker and I went to a meeting of the history project on September 5, 1984. Gayle [Rubin] was there, with Allan Bérubé and Eric Garber. We proposed to them the idea of creating a historical society. And we got a go-ahead that they would support such an organization.”

The nascent group had five meetings through the holidays and into 1985. “But we wanted to get other people involved,” Pennington says.“We were a group of white men and a couple of women. And we realized, you know, we’ve got to start this thing all over again.”

With this in mind, Walker sent a letter to 160 organizations and 100 individuals inviting them to what turned out to be the pivotal meeting at the San Francisco Public Library on March 16, 1985. There were 63 people at the library that Saturday afternoon. “We made the decision that everyone at the meeting was a member,” Pennington remembers. “And we chose the name, the San Francisco Bay Area Gay and Lesbian Historical Society. ... On May 18, we held a public membership meeting to adopt the bylaws and elect the first board of directors.”

Walker was the first cochair, along with Ilene Brettholz. Pennington was elected secretary and served for three years. “Jack Leister was the first treasurer. We got people from the other organizations, people active in the Harvey Milk archives. We kind of coalesced.” On May 19, 1986, the board of directors of the historical society accepted the San Francisco Periodical Archives as its first acquisition.

mow“We did fundraisers at the Eagle and made $4,000 to $5,000 each time,” Pennington recalls. “I was able to get several people to donate collections—for instance, Sylvester’s costumes.”

Pennington says they had several founding principles: “The first is that we were concerned that we were losing important material to AIDS. Families were throwing things out. And there was the Magnus Hirschfeld collection, which was destroyed during Hitler’s Germany. Because of that, we believed that the archives always had to be controlled by the community. It can never be in political hands, because politics can change. And we were concerned about access to very sexual documents. Our collecting policy was very broad, including material that was very sexual in nature.”

Today Pennington is retired, and is still a collector. “I collect little buildings, movie DVDs, maps. I still have a large gay poster collection. And I have leather friendship pins. That will be one of the first things I’ll catalogue and donate to the Historical Society.”

Bay Area native Linnea Due is an award-winning writer and editor.

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Exhibitions & Programs
GLBT History Museum

4127 18th St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
Phone: (415) 621-1107

Archives, Reading Room &
Administrative Offices

GLBT Historical Society
657 Mission St., Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 777-5455
Fax: (415) 777-5576

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society collects, preserves, and interprets the history of GLBT people and the communities that support them. We sponsor exhibitions and programs on an ongoing basis.