James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Friday, August 10, 2012

International LGBTQI Archives Conference: Amsterdam August 2012

Last week I represented the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the International LGBTQI ALMS Conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ALMS stands for "Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections".There were about 100 librarians, archivists, researchers and activists there from as close as France, Sweden and the UK, and from farther away Poland, Hungary, Finland, South Africa, Turkey, North America and Australia. The conference was held at Amsterdam Public Library (see photo left), and sponsored by IHLIA. IHLIA is a Dutch international LGBT Library and archive, and owns the largest such collection in Europe. Three Pride flags are waving in the front of the library. These same flags were hung all over Amsterdam, particularly on the bridges crossing the many canals, in anticipation of the Canal Pride event on Saturday August 4th.

There were too many interesting presentations to give a comprehensive overview of the conference. However, just to give a taste of this rare gathering of LGBTQI people, I will mention a few. Starting with eastern Europe:

Polish art and cultural historian Pawel Leszkowicz presented a keynote lecture "Queering the National Museum of Poland", a report on the curatorial strategy behind the exhibition Ars Homo Erotica (see catalog, right). The exhibition took place in the heart of Warsaw in 2010, and combined the discovery of homoerotic works from the Museum's historical collection from antiquity to the present, with contemporary art work from southeastern Europe. Dr. Leszkowicz emphasized the burgeoning eastern Euroopean queer art scene. You can read his talk by clicking here. His lecture was followed up by speakers from Hungary. Peter Hanzli spoke about the work of the Hatter Support Society for LGBT People, which includes legal aid services, a counseling and information hotline, HIV prevention programs and an archive which documents the history of the Hungarian LGBT movement. To learn more about Hatter click here. LABRISZ Lesbian Association is the first and only lesbian organization in Hungary, and aims to draw public attention to discrimination against female sexual miorities in Hungary. Activities include creating public dialogue through education: publishing a books series; participating in the Budapest Pride Festival; offering the Lesbian Identities Festival (LIFT) which is an annual gathering including film screenings, workshops, book readings and a lesbian herstory exhibition; Budapest Lesbian Film Committee (a network of lesbian filmmakers whose shorts, feature and documentaries have been shown in local and international film festivals); and development of an archive. A portion of the film, Secret Years (2009) was screened at the conference. The film contains interviews with Hungarian lesbians, most of whom are middle age or older. Here is a photo from Budapest Pride 2012, courtesy the LABRISZ website:

This is all I have time to report at the moment. I'll be back in a week or so to tell you about LGBT archives and activities in other countries represented at the ALMS Conference in Amsterdam.

Karen Sundheim

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Archives: AIDS @ 30--Part 1 Caregivers

Photo (c) Sibylla Herbrich (GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers)

The AIDS crisis has been part of our lives for 30 years. It often takes decades to comprehend fully the impact of such a crisis, both as it affects our daily lives and in terms of the longstanding cultural and political effects. Our understanding is based on a combination of personal experience, reflection, and research on how the politics and social concerns of the day addressed (or failed to address) the urgent needs of a community that seemed to increase in size daily.

There are several archival collections in the Hormel Center and in the San Francisco History Center that lend perspective to this important chapter in San Francisco and world history. In this blog post, we'll highlight some of the collections that focus on AIDS caregivers;  later posts will focus on collections about People with AIDS and on government records.

GLC 53 Madison Papers

The Annemarie Madison Papers, the San Francisco General Hospital Ward 5B/5A Records, and Regional Oral History Office's interview transcripts are important sources for examining the AIDS crisis through the eyes of its caregivers.

The Annemarie Madison Papers record the many lives touched by Madison in her work as an AIDS volunteer. When the AIDS epidemic began, Madison asked the Public Health director of San Francisco how she could help. He referred her to Shanti and Coming Home Hospice, where she applied to be a volunteer and was accepted by Coming Home. Gradually, more and more of her patients came as referrals through friends, rather than through hospice. Madison guided these men through the dying process, helping them to pass on with dignity and love.

She maintained files on each person, keeping notes on their cases and their needs, photos, and correspondence with them and their families. The photos often include images of these men before they became ill, and they occasionally include images of them during their hospitalization. Most files contain obituary notices or memorial service programs.

What is clear throughout the Madison collection is her respect for each person, her compassion, and her regret for each life taken too soon. The Madison Papers also contain a small amount of AIDS education materials for hospice volunteers; and audiovisual materials, including interviews with Madison, television news programs with AIDS "progress" reports, and songs produced to raise awareness.

Photo (c) Sibylla Herbrich (GLC 53 Madison Papers)

Madison and her work was profiled in several newspaper and magazine articles. In 1995, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded Madison the Order of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany for her work in the AIDS crisis. In 1996, the Kuratorium for Immune Deficiency (Munich) created the Annemarie Madison Award to honor those who contribute to improving care for AIDS.

Another extraordinary resource is the San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward 5B/5A Records. San Francisco General Hospital's Ward 5B, the first dedicated AIDS hospital ward in the United States, opened with 12 beds on July 25, 1983 and included both AIDS and hospice patients. Cliff Morrison, a former Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, was the first nurse manager. Capacity quickly proved to be inadequate, so on Jan. 17, 1986, the ward was moved to the 20-bed Ward 5A.

In the mid-1990s, with the availability of new drugs called protease inhibitors, the number of AIDS patients decreased sufficiently that the ward began admitting non-AIDS-related oncology patients. With its interdisciplinary approach, Ward 5B/5A set a new standard in AIDS-related medical care.

GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers
The AIDS Ward collection contains scrapbooks, communication books, head nurses' files, correspondence, videotapes, publications, and memorabilia collected by the nursing staff of AIDS Ward 5B/5A. The collection documents daily life on the ward among patients, their families and friends, nurses, and volunteers. Of note are the photos of public events and celebrations, minutes of nursing staff meetings, and copies of the "Best Hospitals" issues of US News and World Report, 1991-1997. The collection also reflects the changing role of nursing, as 5B/5A nurses were critical to the development of the multidisciplinary model of AIDS care that came to be known as the "San Francisco model."

GLC 53 Annemarie Madison Papers
In addition to these two archival collections, the San Francisco History Center has transcripts of oral histories conducted by the Regional Oral History Office at the University of California, Berkeley. The subject is AIDS in San Francisco during the years 1981-1984. You can find the transcripts of these interviews listed in the library's online catalog. These include doctors' and nurses' views, as well as those of AIDS health educators. 

All of the materials listed above are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Archives May 2012

Yonkers Production Company

Scene from The Boy Friend
(GLC 61 Gregory Grosh Yonkers Production Company Slides)

In 2009, Gregory Grosh donated his collection of materials about the Yonkers Production Company. It was a San Francisco theater company in the 1970s that specialized in all-male productions of popular musicals such as Dames at Sea, The Boy Friend, and Hello, Dolly! Several performances took place at the Village Theatre.

Review in David (GLC 61 Gregory Grosh
Yonkers Production Company Slides)
Behind the scenes preparations for The Boy Friend
(GLC 61 Gregory Grosh Yonkers Production Company)
Yonkers was an off-shoot of SIR Productions and involved many of the same people. They included co-producers Perry George and John Kozak; Chuck Zinn, director; and Doug Marglin, choreographer. SIR, the Society for Individual Rights, was a homophile organization based in San Francisco.

Grosh was a neighbor of Kozak and Marglin's, and he became a member of the Yonkers Production Company at their invitation. He performed many behind the scenes tasks, such as taking photographs. His photographs of The Boy Friend appear in several reviews; he is credited as Fotografix and Photo-Graphix.

Scene from Dames at Sea (GLC 61 Gregory Grosh Yonkers Production Company Slides)

The Gregory Grosh Yonkers Production Company Slides collection contains slides of three Yonkers productions and the Golden Awards, plus a few reviews and one program. The program for the May 1972 Hello, Dolly! production includes the article "The Siege of the Palace of Fine Arts" by Perry George, in which he details the search for a performance venue.

The collection is open for research, with photographs available for viewing during Photo Desk hours: Tuesday: 1-5; Thursday: 1-5; Saturday: 10-12, 1-5. All archival collections are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy birthday, Harvey Milk!

GLC 35 Harvey Milk Archives--Scott Smith Collection

Today Harvey Milk would have been 82!

If you're interested in learning more about Harvey Milk and his times, check out this post:


Monday, April 30, 2012

Archives April 2012


Bar Associations ...
lawyers, no ... lesbians, yes!

The library recently acquired the Grace Miller Papers. Grace was one of the owners of record for Tommy's Place and 12 Adler Place, two bars that operated from 1952-1954 and were frequented by lesbians. Grace is pictured at left, behind the bar.

The Grace Miller Papers include correspondence, subject files, photographs and a scrapbook. The subject files include flyers and announcements for a number of lesbian bars from the 1950s to the 1960s.

In September 1954, Grace Miller and co-owners Joyce van de Veer and Jean Sullivan became the subjects of intense public scrutiny as a result of charges against Tommy's Place for underage drinking, drug use, and perverted activity. Grace and Joyce were tending bar and were arrested for serving alcohol to minors. The collection contains a scrapbook with newspaper clippings from the time of the arrests, and Miller's trial and sentencing.

In Nan Boyd's book Wide Open Town, Reba Hudson describes the events surrounding the 1954 arrests and trial. "Tommy [Vasu] lost her license because of the arrests...but the person who actually serves the minor is the one who does the time. ... the two bartenders, they were the victims of this whole thing. Gracie went to trial right at the height of the publicity, that's really why she was convicted. ... Gracie was just a scapegoat because she went to trial when the anti-gay stuff was at its most hysterical peak." Jean was not arrested at all and Joyce got off with probation or a lighter sentence.

Boyd sets the Tommy's Place arrests and trial within the context of McCarthy era politics. She notes that the arrests happened immediately before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency's hearing in San Francisco in October 1954. The lurid headlines about the "thrill bar" served to link juvenile delinquency with sexual deviance, drug use, and prostitution. The San Francisco Examiner editorial shown here deftly (and frighteningly) sums up the thinking prevalent at that time. Although the writer misidentifies the bar as Tommy's Joint rather than Tommy's Place, it is clear that no evidence was really necessary to convict these individuals in the court of public opinion.

The Grace Miller Papers are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photographs desk.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay

A wonderful new exhibit on the life and work of Harry Hay has just opened in the Jewett Gallery at the San Francisco Public Library. In celebration of the centennial of Hay’s birth, the exhibit illuminates his life, from his privileged childhood to his later years as a radical queer activist, using a wide range of photographs, letters, and personal items taken from the Harry Hay Papers. You’ve very likely heard of Harry Hay because of his work with the Mattachine Society in the 1940s and 50s, or with the Radical Faeries from the 1970s until his death in 2002, but there are less well known facts and curiosities from Hay’s life that the exhibition uncovers. The adventurous life of one of our first gay activists does not disappoint, from his camouflage skirt to the teleidoscope invented by his long-time partner, John Burnside, there’s a lot of whimsy in this exhibit to go along with the very important gay history. We’ll we don’t want to give it all away here, come see the exhibit, on view through July 29, 2012!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Archives March 2012

Kiki Gallery Records

Kiki gallery was established by Rick Jacobsen in 1993 to showcase contemporary art and performance. During its three years of operation, the Kiki hosted art exhibits, readings, and performances on subjects as far ranging as scatology, AIDS, and bongs. A few of the artists featured were Joan Jett Blakk, Nayland Blake, Jeannie M., and David E. Johnston.

The Kiki Gallery Records (GLC 29) were donated to the library by Wayne Smith in 1998. The collection contains publicity files, slides, photographs, drafts of performance pieces, exhibit catalogs, and some correspondence for the years 1993-1995. The images here are from the publicity files and catalogs. For a complete description, please see the San Francisco Public Library's website or the Online Archive of California.

All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sister Spit in the library!

The Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center and Radar Productions are very excited to bring a rambunctious multimedia performance extravaganza to the San Francisco Public Library with the Sister Spit 2012 KICKOFF on Sunday, April 1st, 2-5pm, in the Koret Auditorium.

Sister Spit began in 1994, founded by Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson, giving rowdy and rrrriotous emerging writers and performance artists a ticket to some of the best beer-stained stages around the country. Past Spitters have included such talented people as Eileen Myles, Kirk Read, Lynnee Breedlove, and Beth Lisick to name just a few. They’ve been everywhere, met everyone, released several albums, lost their voices several times over, and now they’re coming to the library for this free and not-quiet event! We are so lucky!

The 2012 Sister Spit KICKOFF line-up includes, of course, Radar Productions visionary Michelle Tea, the big-time novelist Dorothy Allison, hilarious performance artist Erin Markey, Bay Area musician and zinester Brontez Purnell, comic artist and writer Cassie J. Sneider, and slam poet and Mr Transman 2010 Kit Yan. And, because we’re special, the KICKOFF includes special guests Ali Liebegott, Hilary Goldberg and a sneak preview of Valencia: the Movie!

We know we’ll see you there!

Queering Art

Ever wondered about all those gay artists and how they've influenced the major art movements throughout history? About representations of same-sex desire in art? Or the ongoing threat of censorship of images of the queer body? Christopher Reed’s well-received new book Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas is a great place to begin exploring the relationship between art and queer sexualities. Focusing mainly on the link between modernism and homosexuality, but going back to the Greeks and forward to queer activism in contemporary art, the book is “a fascinating and sophisticated account of the ways two conspicuous identities have fundamentally informed one another.” Full of compelling images and with accessible writing, it has received numerous favorable reviews (here's one) because of its broad overview and unique approach to the subject.

Another recent book that explores the relationship between queer artists and modernism is Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward. The book documents an exhibition by the same name held at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution that debuted in 2010. With over 150 images, the book provides insight into the representation of same-sex desire in American portraiture and how the “marginality” of queer artists has shaped the ways in which they represented that desire, dramatically influencing modern art. Interestingly, a video installation piece by David Wojnarowicz was removed from the Hide/Seek exhibit at the Smithsonian after complaints by two Republican Congressmen and the Catholic League. It appears that the struggle to freely represent queer bodies and queer sexualities in images continues.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Archives February 2012

Desiree Scrapbooks

David Sabado was born in Hawaii and came to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1980s. He started out as a male stripper but was best known to audiences as the popular Asian-American drag queen Desiree. The Hormel Center has two scrapbooks of photographs, newspaper clippings and flyers which document the events where Desiree performed or was mistress of ceremonies.

Some events were simply celebrations; but more often than not, they raised funds and awareness for such organizations as Shanti Project, Dignity / Metropolitan Community Church, the AIDS bill of rights, and a variety of AIDS-related organizations. There are some wonderful photos of the rehearsals and press coverage of the annual event "Men Behind Bars"—which refers, naturally, to bartenders.

This photo of David Sabado and singer-songwriter Sonny Padilla, Jr. was taken to advertise the benefit concert "A Gift for Christmas." Padilla sang his hit "It's Your Body" in the company of David Sabado, Joe Tolbe and others. The benefit was for patients of Ward 5B, the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital. Proceeds of the concert would be split evenly between all of the patients, and the performance was to be videotaped for use on MTV.

Desiree hosted a drag show every other week at Oakland's Bench and Bar. She was a member of [Drag] Queens for Democracy and NAP (the New Alliance Party). She was also the host for the Endup's regular Jock Strap Contest in the late 1980s.
In 1989, Desiree was nominated for a Cable Car Award for Best Entertainer of the year. Her popularity was such that she performed and emceed at many different bars and clubs in San Francisco, including Kimo's, N'Touch, Esta Noche, the Endup, and many others.

The scrapbooks contain flyers from some events produced by John Kass, special events coordinator of the Endup, as well as flyers and a button for Desiree's campaign to become Queen of Hearts of San Francisco. There are also several photos of Desiree and other Imperial Court members beautifully attired as 18th century French nobility.

David's day job was at Wig America, then at Hansen-Fontana, a wig shop on Powell St. The news item on the right reports that Desiree has opened her own shop and gives a "shout-out" to support the new venture; unfortunately it's undated.

These scrapbooks detail the work, humor and dedication of a performer who sought to entertain, enlighten, and improve the community. With AIDS a very real presence at that time, Desiree's success was due in part to the fact that she provided what the community both desired and needed.

All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Faggots in the library?

Well, of course. We’ve always been here, flipping through dusty page after page, trying to find representations of ourselves that were honest and unafraid. Before we went to the bars or took a peak in the bushes, we turned to books for inspiration and stimulation. The books we found were often filled with stereotypes or, even worse, bad writing. But we’ve kept coming back, and even today, when the Internet is supposed to make connecting so easy and online cruising has become so respectable (and horrible), we’re still searching the library for those revolutionary texts that are going to let us know that we are not alone, and give us the tools to challenge the status quo. And now, finally, a book that is not afraid to flaunt its faggotry in all its flaming glory, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s newest anthology, Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform, is coming out on Valentine’s Day, 2012! In celebration of this exciting moment in queer book history, the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library would like to invite you to the official book launch event, including a lively and stimulating discussion with contributors Jaime Cortez, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Debanuj DasGupta, Booh Edouardo, Eric Stanley, Harris Kornstein, Gina de Vries, Horehound Stillpoint, Matthew D. Blanchard, and your host and editor Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. This Valentine’s Day treat starts at 6pm in the, Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room in the lower level of the Main Library.

Through thirty different essays from a wide range of authors, several of them from the Bay Area, this anthology challenges the current dismal state of mainstream gay culture, asking questions and offering possibilities that go beyond consumerism and cocktails. The essays knock gaping holes into the vapidity that has come to translate as the de rigueur markings of gay culture. And in a time when assimilation through marriage, the military, and, oh yes, money, has become unquestioning and unquestionable, this anthology dares to provoke from inside the annals of gay culture. Here are links to a couple of glowing reviews: Publisher's Weekly and New York Journal of Books.

See you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Archives January 2012

New Accession: Black Lesbian Newsletter / Onyx

As we begin February and the celebration of Black History Month, it seemed the right time to highlight a small but important collection of newsletters that we received last year. Black Lesbian Newsletter was published in San Francisco and, later, Berkeley in the early- to mid-1980s. Its working title changed to Onyx as the result of suggestions from its readership. The newsletter was the brainchild of Laverne Gagehabib, A.C. Barber and Vivienne Walker-Crawford.

The first issue of Black Lesbian Newsletter begins with a "Dear Readers" column which describes the purpose of the publication. The newsletter includes poems, drawings, political perspectives, photographs, book reviews, event listings, personals, and some business listings. Later issues contain illustrations such as the one above by Sarita Johnson.

We received 14 issues dating from June 1982 through October/November 1984 with some issues missing. A complete list follows.

Black Lesbian Newsletter: v. 1 (1) June 1982; v. 1 (4) October 1982; v. 1. (5) November 1982; v. 1. (6) December 1982.

Onyx: Black Lesbian Newsletter: v. 2 ([1]) February 1983; v. 2 (2) April/May 1983; v. 2 (4) August/September 1983; v. 2 (5) October/November 1983; v. 2 (6) December 1983/January 1984; v. 3 (1) February/March 1984; v. 3 (2) April/May 1984; v. 3 (3) June/July 1984; v. 3 (4) August/September 1984; v. 3 (5) October/November 1984.

The collection also includes two mounted newsletter covers, as well as related materials on the Bay Area Black Lesbian Political Caucus. The group was formed by Vivienne Crawford, Joyce Penalver, and Brenda Crawford. The Bay Area Black Lesbian Political Caucus materials include a grant proposal sent to the Vanguard Public Foundation in 1989 and the minutes of the first meeting.

This collection is a recent accession and not yet available to the public. All Hormel Center archives are handled through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. For questions, please contact the San Francisco History Center reference desk at 415-557-4567.