Lavender Legacies Guide: Introduction

This is the first formal and comprehensive guide to primary source material relating to the history and culture of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered (LBGT) 1 people held by repositories in North America. The Society of American Archivists' Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable (LAGAR) 2 is publishing this directory in response to the growing interest in LBGT history by community and academic researchers, demand for material by publishers, the need to identify responsive archives during a time of many deaths of early community activists, and our desire to participate in the effort to ensure preservation and access to the materials that document our contributions to society. Making the information in this guide widely and easily accessible will facilitate the continued study of the history and culture of a marginalized people traditionally ignored and sometimes deliberately hidden from researchers by mainstream institutions.

While some of the repositories in this guide summarize their holdings in international online databases, others appear here for the first time in the context of other archival institutions. Based on answers collected from a written survey, the guide covers all types of repositories ranging from small community archives to large institutional archives, from collections growing in people's homes to well-established manuscript repositories. The guide includes not only verified contact information, but also the scope and accessibility of each institution's holdings. In addition, the guide includes specific information about most repositories' collecting policies. People with documents who would like to contribute to the historical record (potential donors) may read the guide to find an appropriate place to offer material. We encourage people who know about records that should be saved to contact archivists at the repositories described in this directory and to work with them to find a good archival home.

We hope this guide will encourage archivists to increase attention to and cooperation in building LBGT collections and that ultimately the guide and other LAGAR activities will promote better documentation, preservation, and access to LBGT history. Some archivists and community groups are beginning to realize that sources for studying LBGT lives are far from scarce and, in fact, are potentially overwhelming in volume. It is clear that no single repository could take responsibility for this heritage. For those archives that specialize in documenting LBGT lives or special collections and manuscript repositories that make this one of their priorities, it is increasingly important to define collecting parameters. We hope people starting new LBGT collecting efforts will consciously choose aspects of LBGT lives that are currently under-documented or not covered by other organizations' collecting policies. This guide is a good starting point for discovering what colleagues are collecting or intend to collect.

LAGAR encourages all archival repositories to document LBGT issues that relate to their existing collections and mission. All college and university archives, for instance, should document their LBGT student, staff and faculty groups and movements to extend employee benefits to domestic partners. State and local archives should document LBGT people and organizations in their region. Manuscript repositories should collect papers and records of LBGT people and organizations relevant to the scope of their collections. The archives of professional groups should include the records of their LBGT caucuses. Religious archives should include evidence of their views on sexuality and record the activities and issues brought up by their LBGT members. LAGAR supports broad-based interest in and involvement in LBGT history.

We hope that this guide will also encourage archivists to rethink how they make LBGT material accessible. Could someone doing research on a LBGT topic find all potentially useful collections by using the repository's regular access tools? Are there enough topical headings used to point to these collections, and are those headings adequate? If existing finding aids are insufficient, are there supplementary guides that include pointers to LBGT material? LAGAR is committed to ensuring that access to LBGT collections does not rely on hearsay or on one friendly staff member's knowledge. We hope traditional repositories continue to make progress toward providing reasonable access to LBGT collections and that professional archivists continue to help community archives establish archival preservation and access practices.


Although we assume that almost every repository in North America has some lesbian and gay material, this guide describes significant collections, as well as repositories that focus exclusively on collecting LBGT material. For the purposes of the survey, the term "significant" refers to collections containing significant LBGT subject content, not just the papers of an individual who is known to be gay. This information was included in the letter ( Appendix A ) that accompanied the survey. Respondents were left to judge the significance of their own collections; we provided no further guidance.

The LAGAR Directory Committee limited the survey to non-circulating collections. Most of the entries relate only to unique, primary source materials (i.e. original documents including letters, minutes, journals, photographs, etc., from individuals and organizations). Collections of ephemera (flyers, posters, and objects generally not created for a long life) and substantive non-circulating book collections were also included.

The 56 repositories listed in this directory include community-based and state historical societies, religious archives, college and university libraries, and public libraries. Some of the repositories focus solely on collecting LBGT materials; for others this is only one facet of a much broader collecting policy. Some of the repositories have extensive facilities and services, while others are quite small and may not have research rooms or copying facilities. In order to be included in the guide, however, there must be provisions for researcher access. Collections that are known to exist but are inaccessible to researchers are not included.

Considerable effort has been made to assure the accuracy and completeness of each repository entry. Because the data is subject to change and many repositories operate on volunteer help or small staffs, please call or write before visiting to verify hours and the availability of collections. When writing or calling with a reference inquiry, please give the repository as much lead time as possible.


In the spring of 1996, the LAGAR Directory Committee members made introductory telephone calls to each repository that appeared on a preliminary list. During that summer and fall, project members sent a survey (see Appendix A ) to each of approximately 140 repositories that still existed and continued to hold or collect LBGT materials. During the spring of 1997, we entered records into a database and followed up with those repositories that did not return the initial survey. Repositories that were defunct, or that did not respond to the survey or follow-up phone calls are not included in the guide. Based upon the response to our survey, those repositories that did not fall within the scope of the guide as outlined above were omitted.


Entries in the guide are arranged geographically, first by country and then alphabetically by province or state. Within a given state or province, entries are arranged alphabetically by institution name. Each entry begins with basic information about the repository, including location, mailing address, contact information, internet addresses/URLs, hours of operation, and wheelchair accessibility. This general information is followed by a brief history of the repository and information about its LBGT holdings.

Because survey respondents were given the option of summarizing or itemizing collections, the guide uses two different formats for displaying collection information. The "Information about Holdings" section contains data about the size of a repository's holdings, listed by type of material (manuscripts, organizational records, ephemera, etc.). Within each category the amount of LBGT material is noted, either in number of items or in the number of linear feet of shelf space it fills (abbreviated simply as "ft."). These quantities are followed by specific information under the headings "Time periods/geographical regions documented" and "Significant people/organizations/subjects documented." Some repositories elected to provide a "Holdings Summary" instead of using the categories just described. This summary consists of a few paragraphs that outline the repository's LBGT holdings and include information about the amount, time periods and topics covered, and significant people documented by LBGT material in the listed collections.

The survey asked whether organizations were willing and able to accept curatorial responsibility for additional materials. For those that answered in the affirmative, the guide contains a "collecting interests" section with information about the repository's collecting policies or goals. Under "Indices, finding aids, collection descriptions," some repositories noted they put "MARC" records in databases. MARC is the name of a database record format that is used by national and international online catalogs such as OCLC (Online Computer Library Catalog), which is available at many public libraries, and RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network), which is available in many university libraries. Other repositories noted they describe their holdings in NUCMC (the National Union Catalog for Manuscript Collections), which is available at many libraries. New NUCMC descriptions appear on the web ( Finally, each LAGAR guide entry includes sections detailing use requirements, services available, and how news about holdings is announced.

In the event that a repository left a survey question blank and follow-up calls to the repository were unsuccessful in obtaining the necessary information, the corresponding section in repository's guide entry was omitted. Thus, the lack of a particular section in an entry, such as "services," may indicate that a repository does not offer any services, or it may indicate that the repository did not respond to that survey question.

In a few cases, supplementary information was added by a LAGAR member. These comments appear in the text within square brackets. We made no attempt to standardize the terms repositories used to label LBGT material.


This guide represents only a small portion of the documentary resources in repositories that document LBGT communities in North America. LAGAR's intention is to update this guide as the need arises when additional resources become available or are reported to us. We hope that the publication of this guide in an online version creates an opportunity to develop an improved guide for the future.

History and Acknowledgments

The compilation of this guide was aided by several earlier attempts to collect data about LBGT collections. Elizabeth Knowlton's groundbreaking survey, reported in her article "Documenting the Gay Rights Movement" (Provenance, Society of Georgia Archivists, v. 5, no. 1, 1987), was the first serious effort to locate resources in mainstream archives and publicize them. The International Association of Lesbian and Gay Archives and Libraries (IALGAL) produced a list in 1987 that included many of the community-run lesbian and gay history projects. Since numerous community-organized initiatives to preserve lesbian and gay history were short-lived or changed addresses, just keeping track of them continues to be a challenge. In recent years, a number of individuals and organizations have mounted lists of LBGT archives on the web and have attempted to keep the contact information current. 3

The directory project was suggested at the first informal meeting of the Roundtable in Atlanta in 1988. Its successful completion is truly a credit to the creativity and tenacity of many individuals. The LAGAR Directory Committee would first like to thank long-time LAGAR member Douglas Haller for his solitary effort in keeping the informal list updated and available to the committee. This document served as a crucial foundation for the project. A number of other LAGAR members and LAGAR co-chairs contributed their energies and leadership over time. Those people include: Steven Wheeler, Deborah Shelby, Stephen Nonack, Scott Andrew Bartley, Brenda Marston, Brent Sverdloff, Mark Martin, and Paula Jabloner. We appreciate both the form and focus that Brenda Marston, LAGAR Co-Chair 1991-1995, gave us. She organized a strategy session in 1994 that resulted in LAGAR mobilizing to work on the directory as our first priority, and she formed the committee structure that contributed to our successful completion of the project. Our sincere thanks to Kim Brookes who took up the reins as Directory Committee chair in 1996. She created the database for entering survey results, kept track of the project overall, and masterfully kept the committee members, from Boston to Honolulu, focused on our tasks. We must also tip our hats to electronic mail, whose widespread use greatly facilitated collaborative work among the members spread so far apart.

This guide is being distributed thanks to the administrative support of the Society of American Archivists. We would like to thank the following institutions for production support: Cornell University (Rare and Manuscript Collections, and the LBG Studies Program), the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, Salem State College (Massachusetts), and T.L.L. Temple Memorial Library Archives. We greatly appreciate their support of our work to bring LBGT historical sources to the attention of a wide audience. We extend our thanks to Jeff Sitzlar for designing the cover for this guide.

Finally, we thank all the archivists and activists involved in preserving the documents of LBGT history. Too many LBGT people have been separated from their history. Too many graduate students have been discouraged by advisors saying there are not adequate sources for the study of LBGT history. Too many histories written have been incomplete, missing the perspective that could have been offered by the sources described in this guide. Our deepest thanks go to all the people who have played a role in preserving our rich and varied lavender legacies.

Members of the Directory Committee, 1996-1998

Kim Brookes, Scott Andrew Bartley, Mimi Bowling, James Cartwright, John Paul Deley, Susan Edwards, Paula Jabloner, Brenda Marston, Mark Martin, Stephen Novak, Nancy Richard, Susan von Salis, Rich Wandel

Members of the Updating Committee, 2011-2012

Mary Caldera, Jim Cartwright, Marika Cifor, Lisa Dibbern, Stephen Novak, Deborah Richards, Johanna Russ

1 The abbreviation LBGT is used as an inclusive term meaning lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered and others who breach socially sanctioned boundaries of gender or sexuality. Our historical concern embraces bisexuality, cross-dressing, transsexuality, homosexuality, and other such sexual and affectional interests, whether self-identified or not. We expect lesbians and gay men to continue their long tradition of self-labeling, and we are and will be interested in the history of bulldykes, queens, gay women, lesbian feminists, faeries, queers, and people with identities we have not heard of yet.

2 LAGAR was formed in 1989 by Society of American Archivists members concerned about the recovery, preservation, and understanding of the history of lesbians, gay men, and their institutions.

3 As of March 1999, several sites that do this are: Lesbian History Project (; and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives ( ).