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social sciences

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Libraries and Archives  
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Serving as a repository for diverse collections--including records of self-help groups, public institutions, and churches, as well as memoirs, oral histories, and literary and artistic works--the Schwules Museum attempts to build from such diverse sources a continually expanding chronicle of gay social history and to document the history and development of gay liberation movements around the world. However, it has a particular concern with the persecution of gay men and lesbians during the Third Reich.

Britain's Hall-Carpenter Archives were founded in 1982. Collections of activist and organization papers, oral histories, and news clippings reside at the London School of Economics, the National Sound Archive, and Middlesex University, respectively.

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The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto has operated since 1973 with The Body Politic's records as its core. It houses artworks, a gay/lesbian portrait collection, and extensive sets of periodicals, vertical files, graphics, and AV materials.

There are many regional GLBT archives. Specialized collections range from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network (Berkeley), to the AIDS Library of Philadelphia, to the Leather Archives and Museum (Chicago).

The Society of American Archivists' Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable (LAGAR) maintains an online list, entitled "Lavender Legacies," of North American glbtq-focused collections. The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project provides links to many international and U.S. regional facilities.

Many activists argue that gay-related materials should remain in glbtq-owned facilities. Citing cycles of political repression and indigenous peoples' struggles to reclaim their artifacts, spokespeople are understandably wary of mainstream institutions' priorities. They make a strong case for retaining proprietary control over access, display, and interpretation of glbtq culture.

However, stand-alone facilities must continually seek funding and usually rely on volunteer staff. Aging documents and audiovisual materials require appropriate preservation and storage conditions that are costly to sustain. For these and other reasons, some activists and organizations have opted to deposit their memorabilia in mainstream institutions that provide full technical support.

For example, Yale University Manuscripts and Archives house the papers of David Mixner and Harvey Fierstein; the New York Public Library's Manuscripts and Archives Division is the repository for Barbara Gittings' and Kay Lahusen's papers; and the University of Oregon has acquired the estate of lesbian artist Tee Corinne.

Some archives, like ONE, find an intermediate solution by having their collections housed within university facilities while staffed and processed by community members. Others, like the Lesbian Herstory Archives, deliberately preserve their autonomy.

Because of special considerations affecting film preservation, the film festival Outfest has partnered with the UCLA Film and Television Archive to house and preserve its Legacy Collection. Lynne Kirste discusses the specific issues regarding film archiving.

Some mainstream institutions, such as the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University and the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan, actively collect gay materials. The Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries has a worldwide scope, even housing some of Hirschfeld's materials that escaped his library's destruction.

Collection of glbtq materials is an ongoing process. Personal diaries will be valuable to future historians, along with organizations' minutes and financial records. Posters of marches, fundraisers, and cultural events provide a visual narrative of history, while photographs and home movies of private gatherings put human faces on the collected stories. Erotica, especially when a broad span of years is represented, documents society's evolving attitudes toward sexual imagery.

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