Lavender Legacies Guide: United States: Minnesota

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Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies
Minnesota Historical Society
Quatrefoil Library

Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies
Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 21st Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Contact: Lisa Vecoli, Curator
Phone: (612) 624-7526 Email:


 The collection was begun by Jean-Nickolaus Tretter. After being discharged from the Navy, he and his friends organized the first Twin Cities commemoration of the Stonewall Riots in June 1972. At around the same time, Tretter began to collect gay and lesbian materials in a piecemeal fashion. He didn't start out with the grand scheme of an archive; he just gathered things that seemed to matter.

Tretter studied social and cultural anthropology at the University of Minnesota from 1973-1976 and wanted to specialize in gay and lesbian anthropolgy but could not get the institutional support he needed. Tretter dropped out of the university and began working as a counselor at a Ramsey County residence for youth with mutiple disabilities. He also began studying gay and lesbian history on his own, beginning the accumulation of materials that currently make up his collection.

In 1983, Tretter was assembling a gay history display when he made a disturbing discovery: "Our gay history was disappearing as fast as we were producing it." Tretter consciuosly started collecting anything that was GLBT, always on the lookout for new materials. Since 1982, he has been a member of the Los Angeles-based International Gay and Lesbian Archives where he served as both a board member and the Upper Midwest representative.

In 2000, Tretter donated his entire collection to the University of Minnesota Libraries where it joined Archives and Special Collections. Today the Tretter Collection is housed at Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota.

Current holdings: Size and Content

The collection consists of approximately 3,500 linear feet of material and spans a variety of subjects and formats. The collection is international in scope and has items in 58 languages.

Holdings include published materials (books and periodicals) including those from Minnesota, across the United States and overseas such as: Queue Press; GLC Voice; Equal Time; Focus Point; Lavender Magazine; Twin Cities Gaze; ONE Magazine; Mattachine Review; The Ladder; The Advocate; Bay Area Reporter; Windy City Times; New York Native; Der Kries; Aracdie; Lambda Nordika; Gai Pied; and many more titles.

We hold organizational records of local, national and international organizations including: Amazon Feminist Bookstore Cooperative, the first lesbian/feminist bookstore in North America; the records of the national Log Cabin Republican organization; a large Two Spirit GLBT Native American collection; the Lesbian and Gay Band Association; and Equal Ground in Sri Lanka.

Papers of individuals include both well-known and lesser known community members including the papers of: Michael McConnell who, with Jack Baker, was the first person to apply for a same sex marriage license (1970); State Senator Allan Spear who was one of the first out elected officials in the United States; Nancy Manahan, co-editor of “Lesbian Nuns”; anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum; and many other collections.

The Tretter Collection is also home to the Tretter Transgender Oral History Project (TTOHP), currently the largest project of its kind anywhere in the world. TTOHP is documenting the transgender/gender queer experience in the Upper Midwest with oral histories from 200 individuals with 300+ hours of content.

In addition the collection holds 4,500 movies (8mm, Beta, VHS and DVD), +1,000 textiles and tee shirts, +4,000 posters and works of art, thousands of buttons, and assorted ephemera.

Collection Growth:

 The Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies collects internationally in all formats. We are dedicated to archiving the full experience of the GLBT community and especially welcome materials from groups that are underrepresented such as Bi/Pan/Fluid/Omni voices; Transgender/Gender Queer Voices; working class, disabled and non-urban voices; and the voices of People of Color.

Access and Use

The Tretter Collection is open to the public and its holdings are accessible to all. Because of limited staffing, we highly recommend contacting the staff in advance to request materials be available for your visit. Material in the archive does not circulate and researchers may use the materials only in the onsite Special Collections reading room. Photocopying services are available for a fee, depending on the fragility of the material. The requirements are the same for all University of Minnesota special collections.

The Elmer L. Andersen Library, where the Tretter collection is housed, has regular business hours, Monday through Friday. (Please see website for specific hours.) For speedier access, appointments made in advance are recommended. The library is wheelchair accessible.

Research space, reference assistance on site, copying services, telephone reference, and loan agreements for exhibits can be arranged. All materials must be used onsite.

Indices, finding aids, collection descriptions:
The Tretter Collection has processed the vast majority of its holdings. Finding Aids for Collections are posted on the Tretter website:

Updating Collection Descriptions:
The Tretter Collection publishes a newsletter twice a year and features new collections in each issue. Previous issues are on the website and future issues may be requested by contacting the curator with a mailing address.

Minnesota Historical Society
Address: 345 Kellogg Blvd. West
St. Paul, MN 55102-1906
Phone: (651) 259-3317 (reference)
Contact: Tracey Baker, Assistant Head of Collections and Reference
Wheelchair access: Yes
The Historical Society was chartered in 1849 as the second act of the Territorial Legislature.  The Society is not part of the state government, but an independent non-profit educational institution with a self-perpetuating board of directors.  Its mission is to document the human history of Minnesota.  The Society's main facility, which houses museum galleries and a research library, is open without charge to the public.  There is no charge for access to the research collections but charges do apply for reproductions.
Holdings Summary:
This is a summary of the Society's holdings by its major collection divisions.  Please note that the Society uses GLBT rather than LGBT as its abbreviation for the collection.
Government Records
In 1971 the Society was given the responsibility for administering the State Archives - the official records of state, county, municipal and township governments.  Among the record series that are richest in documents and data on GLBT citizens in Minnesota are those of the State Department of Human Rights (1955-80) and Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights (1947-79).  other important series include:  correspondence and subject files of the Governor's Office, the records and case files of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, and the subject files of Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser.  Extensive records of the Governor's Task Force on Lesbian and Gay Minnesotans (1990-91) are included in the manuscript collection of Leo Treadway (see below), vice chair of the Task Force.
Manuscript Collections
The manuscript collections include the papers (letters, diaries, scrapbooks, etc) of individuals and the records (minutes, reports, financial documents, etc.) of organizations and businesses.  Among the Society's most important GLBT manuscript collections are the papers of:  elected official and PWA Brian Coyle (1965-91); the papers of Leo Treadway (1964-2007) documenting his work with secular and religious organizations advancing gay rights and human justice issues; activist and organizer Thom Higgins (1950-94) including documentation of the famous 1977 incident in which he hit Anita Bryant with a pie; Wallace Swan (1975-94) reflecting his work as a public administrator and active role in in the Minneapolis gay community as a parent, church member, patron of the arts, and civil rights advocate; and Allan J. Spear, reflecting his work as a member of Minnesota Legislature (1972-2000).  Organizational records that document the GLBT community include:  The Women's Coffeehouse Collective (1975-90), a "chemically-free meeting place for all women which supports and nurtures the social, cultural, and political life of the Twin Cities lesbian community;" Lesbian and Gay Interfaith Council of Minnesota (1978-87), composed of several religious groups ministering to the gay community; Northland Business Association (1985-88) "gay and lesbian business and professional people...joined together for educational and humanitarian purposes and mutual support;" Out and About Theater (1977-82) - a Minneapolis Theater "committed to a forthright and earnest exploration of diverse expressions of alternative lifestyles;" GAMMA (1978-96), a social and athletic organization for gay men in the Twin Cities; Minnesota Committee for Gay Rights (1974-84), documenting its work to pass local ordinances and state laws guaranteeing rights for gays, to combat homophobia and violence against gays, and to educate the public and legislature about GLBT issues generally.
Oral Histories
The Society holds two major oral history projects related to the GLBT community.  "Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Community Oral History Project, 1993," contains interviews with people connected with the local gay/lesbian community from the 1940s to the advent of AIDS in the early 1980s.  Narrators recount early impressions of what they thought homosexuality was, personal experiences of how they came to terms with their sexuality and the social environment they experienced in the Twin Cities.  Interviewees: Richard Bosard, Dennis E. Miller, Koreen Phelps, Ashley Ann Rukes, Allan Spear, Leo Treadway, Jean-Nicholas Tretter, Kerry Woodward.  "Not Waiting for a Cure Oral History Project, 1994-1995," documents Minnesota's response to AIDS from personal and sociopolitical perspectives, through the memory of those working in and lost to the epidemic.  Interviewees:  Grace Arrington, Kiran Belani, Sharon Day, Cindy Hawkins, Agnes Leitheiser, Sister Joannes Lucid, William Main, Cynthia Mayeda, Steve Moore, Frank S. Rhame, Roy Schmidt, Rev. Vincent Schwahn, Patrick Scully, David Swarthout, Pat Thayer, Robert E. Tracy, Violetta, John Weiser, Shirley Wilson.
The Library holds and continues to collect magazines and newspapers published by and for the GLBT community: for example, Equal Time (1984-94), Infront Directory (1995-present), Lavender (1995-present), Official Pride Guide (1989-present), Twin Cities Gayzette/The Free Voice/The Uptown Voice (1971-72), Bi the Way (1993-98), The GLC Voice (1979-88), Minnesota positive:  HIV monthly newsletter (1993-present), GAB Skinny (1995-present), Twin Cities Gaze (1985-92).  The Society holds microfilm editions of virtually every English-language newspaper printed in Minnesota - an unparalleled resource for the study of any community.  Researchers will also find many reports, such as the 1975 HumanRights Issues: Fair Employment for Gay the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions, and Northstar Project:  Out and Counted:  A Survey of the Twin Cities Gay and Lesbian Community, 1988, by the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council.  Among the books related to Minnesota GLBT people are Kurt Chandler's Passages of Pride:  Lesbian and Gay Youth Come of Age (1995), Mary Borhek's My Son Eric (1979), David Brudnoy's memoir Life is Not a Rehearsal (1997), Reclaiming the Heartland: Lesbian and Gay Voices from the Midwest (1996).  The Society documents the cultural life of the state, including fiction by GLBT authors.  Ellen Hart's award-winning Jane Lawless mysteries are just one example.
Art Collection
The Society's collection of more than 6,000 paintings, prints, and drawings includes works by GLBT artists, such as Mark O'Leary (1953-93), an accomplished painter who contracted AIDS in his thirties and found it necessary to work on a small scale with colored pencil on paper as his illness progressed.  Several of his works are in the Art Collection, and his papers are in the Society's manuscript collection.
Sound and Visual Collections
The Sound and Visual collection at the History Center holds hundreds of photographs relating to GLBT people in the state of Minnesota.  These include portraits of individuals and scenes of group activity.  Portraits are indexed by name of the person, and other photographs are arranged by subject category.  In addition, the separately cataloged Thom Higgins Photo Collection contains a wealth of images of the Twin Cities GLBT community, and the Brian Coyle manuscript collection (see above) contains a large number of photographs as well.  The Society also collects sound recordings and moving images such as Stay With Me - Ellen Anthony's documentary on state legislator Karen Clark.
Museum Artifacts
The Museum Collections department at the Society documents GLBT Minnesotans through acquiring and cataloging three-dimensional artifacts.  These artifacts reflect "famous" events and people, but even more the ordinary lives of ordinary people.  Objects relating to the LGBT community range from a guerilla theater costume used in a Twin Cities demonstration against a meeting of the Beran League in the 1980's to a business card from the local office of ACT UP, with the tag-line "Where is Your Anger?"  Other objects include dozens of buttons - those promoting political campaigns and causes (supporting Alan Spear and Al Oertwig campaigns, and opposing the 1978 referendum to repeal the St. Paul Human Rights ordinance) and those commemorating events (Gay Pride festivals, Out and About Theater's first production, "Minnesota Leather Encounter '91").  There are banners here (one that hung in the Women's Coffeehouse Collective, and one carried by Gay & Lesbian Youth Together in Pride parades) flyers ("FTM-A Transsexual Journey from Female to Male" st the Minnesota Fringe Festivalin 1995 is just one), even a deck of cards - a souvenir of the 1969 New year's celebration at the Happy Hour Bar.  The collections include the announcement for the wedding of David Fey and Michael Putnam in Minneapolis, and the commemorative "stone wall" erected at the state capitol in 1989 during the "St. Paul:  Celebrating the Struggle" rally.  These and other objects are available for research by appointment.  Call the department at 651-296-8071, Monday through Friday.
Collecting interests:
Materials relating directly to Minnesota
Use requirements:
Open to the public. Users must provide a picture ID for registration purposes and agree to abide by the general use policies of the Society. Some specific collections may have access restrictions imposed by the donor.
Research space, reference assistance on site, copying services, telephone reference, audiovisual facilities, internet reference, exhibition loan agreements for exhibits.
All published collection material (with the important exception of newspaper titles) is cataloged in OCLC and the regional OPAC PALS (accessible on the web via the Society's web site).  All manuscript and state archives collections are cataloged in RLIN/NUCMC and in PALS.  Each collection also has a paper finding aid available in the research library (some of these finding aids are linked to their respective PALS records).  The photo collections are accessible through an in-house card catalog; this catalog is currently being converted to electronic form, and is accessible through the Society's web page.  The artifact collection is cataloged on an in-house database, available by appointment; some of the artifacts are also cataloged in PALS.

Quatrefoil Library
1220 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407-2787
Phone: (612) 729-2543
Contact: Kathy Robbins
Internet address:
Collecting areas: The Quatrefoil Library houses published GLBT materials, including books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, videos, DVD's, audiocassettes and CD's.
Online catalog:
Alternate online catalog: