James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Archives August 2011

Serendipity in the Archives

As I was looking for something of interest this month, I happened upon a letter written by Harvey Milk to his friend Susan Davis in September 1960. At that time Hurricane Donna ravaged the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. from Florida to Maine. Harvey writes about the expected arrival of the hurricane. Since Hurricane Irene has been all over the news lately, Harvey's letter provides an unexpected connection to events 51 years ago.

Of course, not every moment is newsworthy. For each letter, diary entry, or photograph that evokes a historical moment, there are many more that touch on the daily happenings and occasional milestones in ordinary people's lives. These can be equally interesting to peruse, as they provide glimpses into bygone eras and places and into the concerns and hopes of the people living then.

With that in mind, I selected another letter from the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch collection (GLC 19). In this letter, Harvey congratulates Sue on her recent wedding to George Alch and muses on marriage, his home life with Joe Campbell and the wonderful city of San Francisco (where Sue and George got married). These letters provide insight into Harvey's personal life, his thoughts and his sense of humor.

The two letters highlighted in this post are merely the tip of the iceberg. The library's archival collections are full of such captured moments--from the mundane, ordinary and quite personal to the life-altering, history-making and public. If you are interested in looking at original historical materials, such as the Harvey Milk-Susan Davis Alch letters, please visit the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Archives July 2011

Barbara Cameron Papers

Here's a late "July" archives post. Just recently I was re-examining some smaller archival collections to find good candidates to prepare for public use. Among these the Barbara Cameron Papers (2 cartons). This is a jewel box of a collection as each item invites further inspection and contemplation.

Barbara Cameron (May 22, 1954-February 12, 2002) was a Native American (Lakota Sioux) lesbian activist, poet and writer. She was raised by her grandparents on the Standing Rock Reservation (North and South Dakota), and moved to San Francisco in the 197os. In 1975 she co-founded Gay American Indians with Randy Burns. She counted among her friends the Native American poet and activist Chrystos, and there are a few pieces in the Papers that are written by Chrystos and dedicated to Cameron.

The Papers also include speeches, poems and other writings by Cameron. Her subjects include the challenges of being gay within the Native American community, being Native American within the LGBT community, racism, nature, violence and death, acceptance, activism, and alcoholism. Her Papers also include material on the different political groups with which she was affiliated, including the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club.

The Barbara Cameron Papers are not yet ready for public use but I expect them to be ready by the end of 2011. The Papers will be available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.