Tagged archives

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.

MIGHTY REELS: Pride in the 70s

Harvey Milk gestures at the crowd during the 1975 Gay Freedom Day parade on O’Farrell Street.

Friday, June 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This program is now available for on-line viewing.

In celebration of Pride Month, media preservationist John Raines devotes his ongoing Mighty Reels series to a look back at Pride in the 1970s. Beginning with amateur video of the 1973 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade and festival — a casual party in the park — the program surveys annual marches in the city through 1981. Harvey Milk appears in some of the reels, both before and after becoming California’s first openly gay elected official. Rare film and video drawn from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society include a Super 8 retrospective lensed and introduced by Lou Perica (1930-1989), a longtime member of San Francisco’s gay community. Admission: $5.00; free for members.

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

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!