James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Last Call! Final Week for 20th Anniversary Exhibition!

They say all good things must come to an end. And that is the case with our 20th anniversary exhibition Queerest.Library.Ever. One week from today, Sunday, August 7th is the last day to see the show before we begin to put back all of the letters, scrapbooks, photos, and objects.

Tom Nicoll viewing the Tom of Finland display
(Photo courtesy of Brian Castagne)

I know you're asking "What does that really mean?"

It means...
If you haven't had a chance to see Gay Monopoly, go to the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch library, go directly to EVA, do not pass go...there you'll see Queer and Quirky: OBJECTifying Ourselves.

It also means...
If you're wondering who was on the Hormel Founders Committee and what their hairstyles were 20-odd years ago, you should visit the Hormel Center exhibition on the 3rd floor of the Main Library. You'll find materials on the beginnings of the Center and photos from the Shades of LGBTQI collecting project along with original artwork from Reversing Vandalism.

(GLC 101 Collection on Sylvester)
And if you'd like to see a photo of a young Sylvester, and of an even younger Jewelle Gomez, you'll want to stop by the Main Library's Jewett Gallery (lower level). The exhibition showcases an array of archival material that highlights activism, community and the ways we find to come together, visual representation of ourselves and by ourselves, and lesbian love within literary and publishing circles.

And, finally, if you'd like to know what we had on display 10 years ago, visit the Main Library's 6th floor bridge to rediscover the traveling panel exhibition "Out At The Library."

Don't miss your chance to see the exhibition. Plan to visit this week.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Some Matchless Objects of Our Affection

We dismiss many objects from everyday life because they are commonplace and readily available. Think paper napkins, postcard notices for upcoming events, business cards, political buttons and pins, T-shirts with slogans, matchbooks, and even pencils engraved with business names. These items (called "realia" in library lingo) most often find their way to trash cans or recycling bins.

But on some occasions, they make their way to the archives where they serve as a fun piece of history. The exhibition Queer and Quirky: OBJECTifying Ourselves highlights objects from the  James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center's archives. This portion of the Hormel Center's 20th anniversary exhibition is on display at the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library. Other portions of the Queerest. Library. Ever. exhibition are on display at the Main Library.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Harvey Milk Photo Center Pride Exhibition

We are pleased to announce the opening of

LGBTQ: Chronicled: 1933–2016

Harvey Milk Photo Center
50 Scott Street, San Francisco, CA 94117

The exhibition runs from June 18-July 16, 2016.
Opening reception: Saturday, June 18 from 4-9 p.m.

The event is free to the public.

Harvey Milk with Navy friends taken in Hollywood, between 1953-1954
(Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection)

The exhibition features work by Saul Bromberger, Sandra Hoover, Chloe Jackman, Preston Gannaway, Skot Jonz, Bill Wilson, Hossein  Carney, Paul Margolis, Rick Gerharter, Minor White, Rink, Hal Fischer, Daniel Nicoletta, David Ayllon, Efren Ramirez, Dwayne Newton, Peter Thoshinsky, CJ Lucero, and Lucky Milo Whitburn-Thomas.

The library is pleased to partner with the Harvey Milk Photo Center and has provided 14 photos from 6 of its archival collections: the John Gruber Papers, the Harvey Milk Archives-Scott Smith Collection, the Harry Hay Papers, the Peter Adair Papers, the Rikki Streicher and Mary Sager Photograph Albums, and the Cliff Anchor Papers. For more information about these collections, visit the archives at the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Guest Blogger: Q. L. E. Curator Jim Van Buskirk's Favorite Things

I was delighted to be invited back to guest curate "Queerest.Library.Ever #Hormel at20". Here are seven of my favorite items in the show:

outpost flyer, 1991
"Absolutely Queer" poster. This was a guerilla campaign from the summer of 1991, by two AIDS activists, who were lovers, and friends of mine. I urged them to donate a set of the posters to the Hormel Center with the provision that their identities not be revealed.  

A. Jay "Adventures of Harry Chess" detail
(A. Jay Papers)
Allen ("A. Jay") Shapiro drawings. I wasn't previously familiar with his cartoon strip "The Adventures of Harry Chess" and found it witty, provocative, and artistically excellent. Its inclusion exemplifies a goal of the exhibit: to recontextualize provocative material historically.
Gay Bob in his original packaging...
Yes, it is a very well appointed closet!
(LGBTQIA Realia Collection)
The Gay Bob doll entered the picture late in the game, when in the course of my research I realized the Hormel Center didn't own one. I lamented the lacunae to a lesbian friend who immediately ordered one and donated it. "No self-respecting Gay & Lesbian Center should be without one," she insisted. Exhibition designer Ann Carroll and I had fun one afternoon posing Bob in various positions in and around the Eureka Valley-Harvey Milk Memorial Branch.

Jewelle Gomez (center), undated
(Jewelle Gomez Papers)
"Lesbian Literary Love" was a labor of love partly because so many of the women included have become friends: Michelle Tea, Ann Bannon, Jewelle Gomez, Katherine Forrest, and Carol Seajay of Feminist Bookstore News. Developing this section was a wonderful collaboration with library school intern Mariah Sparks, whose dad processed the very first Hormel Center collection, that of poet Lynn Lonidier.

"Yellow Is For Hermaphrodites" scrapbook, 1995-2014
(David Cameron Strachan Intersex Collection)
David Cameron Strachan's contribution to intersex activism is important. In the process of proposing and planning a pioneering public program in 2001, David helped me develop the library's collections and taught me everything I know about intersex, starting with the fact that people with one of the myriad of conditions under the rubric of "intersex" were formerly referred to as hermaphrodites. We went on to collaborate on an article about intersex resources for the valuable anthology Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users: Essays onOutreach, Service, Collections and Access edited by Ellen Greenblatt.

#20 Movie Star, 2000
(Chloe Atkins Photographs Collection)
Chloe Atkins is a versatile photographer and a friend. Her various series includes portraits of drag kings and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, as well as her well-known lesbian nightclub photos. For several years Chloe hosted the very successful series "Queer Photo Salon" at the LGBTQ Community Center and the SFPL. Her cross-dressing self portrait "Movie Star #35" hangs in my living room. Not only did the Hormel Center purchase a portfolio of her images, but Chloe generously donated her entire archives.

Gay and Lesbian Center Founders Committee, 1993
(San Francisco Public Library Records)
The Hormel Center Founders photograph was taken at a fabulous fundraising event at Jan Zivic's home in Sonoma. Bob Sass generously donated his copy of the framed photograph, even though ironically he is not included. Over the years Jan and I have become friends and I am delighted to have reconnected with Bob. The commitment of the Hormel Center's founders endures in many important and unimaginable ways.

The Queerest.Library.Ever. #Hormelat20 exhibition continues through August 7, 2016.

--Jim Van Buskirk

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Considerate Vandalism Considered

This month I am full of questions. Without many answers.
Musing. Not amused or bemused. But confused, perhaps.

Since mid-March I have been focused on the Queerest. Library. Ever. exhibition here at the library. It is a big celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Hormel LGBTQIA Center, its programs, and its collections including the archives. Consequently I've been busy assisting the curator with many of the attendant details. I've been so wrapped up in preparations that I feel like one of the library's carefully sheltered artifacts that is protected from climate changes in the real world. One event this week peeled back those protective layers.

Out at the Library panel exhibit
The LGBTQIA archives are available through the San Francisco History Center on the 6th floor of the Main Library. As part of the big exhibition, the Out At The Library panel exhibit from the 10th anniversary of the Hormel Center is on the 6th floor bridge, about 40 feet away from the History Center's entrance. When I got back from lunch last week, a fellow librarian alerted me that there was something taped to one of the panels. And then another colleague mentioned the same. So I took a look.

I found a pamphlet titled "Thank You For Praying" taped to one of the panels. While the message seemed clear, I had to smile because it was taped with clear packing tape in the space between two pictured documents, Harvey Milk's datebook for 1978 and his speech "You've Got To Have Hope." The clear tape and pamphlet placement meant that the content of the exhibition was not obscured. One might call it considerate vandalism.

The pamphlet and tape were removed without damaging the panels but it left me wondering. Had the perpetrator read any of the text of the exhibition? How premeditated was the placement of the pamphlet? Did he or she choose a spot midway along the exhibition so that taping the pamphlet would be hidden from view? or was the location selected because it was Harvey Milk?

Out at the Library panel exhibit
The last lines of Milk's "You've Got To Have Hope" speech are: "Each of those people have his or her own hopes and aspirations, his or her own viewpoints and problems. Each of them contributes something unique to the life of the city. What they contribute, we call the 'quality of life.'"

In these past few days I've been helping with the installation of objects and labels. As a novice with exhibitions, I've found it's easy to have too many things in one case because everything tells a story, and every story is unique, and some are interconnected, and...You see my point. The archives is full of stories and objects, books and videos, that beg, and sometimes demand, to be heard.

What I've learned is that too many objects in one place results in the mental equivalent of shopping fatigue. The eyes need an empty space to rest. Similarly, the mind needs space before it can apprehend and comprehend. In a very real sense the library is that clear, open space. With a silence that welcomes a question. And a quiet space...to listen and to hear. Ideally to reflect and to respect. And, perhaps, to understand. That is what I pray for.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Assimilating Mattilda's Papers

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, is an author and activist who challenges the status quo within the LGBTQIA community. With anthologies such as That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, Mattilda gives a voice to ideas that differ from the mainstream and inspire us to demand more than inclusion.

Mattilda has been known by various names throughout her life: Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and just Mattilda. She was the editor of her high school yearbook and its literary magazine, and has been involved with activism for GLBT issues, AIDS, and politics. She participated with ACT UP and was the co-founder of "Gay Shame" with one other person.

"Gay Shame" photo
She's an avid diarist and writer, and has lived in a variety of cities including New York and San Francisco. She is the author of The End of San Francisco (2013) and the novels So Many Ways To Sleep Badly (2008) and Pulling Taffy (Suspect Thoughts, 2003). She's also the editor of five anthologies: Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write About Their Clients (2000); That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (2004); Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (2006); Dangerous Families: Queer Writing on Surviving (2004); and Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform (2012).

The bulk of the Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore Papers (GLC 110) is from 1996-2011 and the major subjects include assimilation, gender, identity, and politics. The collection contains manuscripts, 'zines, published articles and books, photographs and audiovisual materials.

Feedback from D. Travers Scott
on a draft of The End of San Francisco
Roughly half of the collection is heavily edited drafts of The End of San Francisco and the submitted and edited drafts and correspondence for the anthology Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? The papers also contain a number of ‘zines, such as Gay Shame and Swallow Your Pride, which Mattilda produced, articles and reviews written by Mattilda, and several published interviews of Mattilda.

Come explore Mattilda's writing and anthologies. You might be inspired to re-examine your own ideas and you might assimilate some of the ideas you discover here. The Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore Papers (GLC 110) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

And for Throwback Thursday, here's the 2012 post Faggots in the Library? about Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Patti Roberts, An Advocate for Change

Patti Roberts
(GLC 111. Box 6)
Patricia (Patti) Rose Roberts was a longtime San Francisco Bay Area resident, an out lesbian, and a civil rights and labor attorney.

Patti was born in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, on November 13, 1946. She graduated from Brooklyn College in 1967 and went on to Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated from Boalt in 1970 with a J.D. degree and a desire to use her legal skills to help those traditionally without representation. That same year, she formed a collective Oakland household where she and others, including Stephen Bingham, lived. Roberts lived in the home for the next 41 years.

Poster: San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation
(GLC 111. Map Folder 2)

Roberts began her career with the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) working on behalf of prisoners. She remained active with NLG, serving as president of the Bay Area chapter and on the local board. While continuing to do political work with the guild, Roberts began work as the head of the Women's Litigation Unit at San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Aid, representing poor women on a wide range of legal issues. Following her time at Legal Aid, Roberts founded and co-directed the Comparable Worth Project in Oakland, which pioneered much of the earliest legal work on the issue of pay inequity rooted in gender and race bias.

Roberts' Reader and Resource Materials list (p.1)
for Gay and Lesbian Issues in the Workplace course
(GLC 111. Box 3)
In 1977, Patti became a founding board member of the Lesbian Rights Project, re-named the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and she later served as NCLR interim executive director. NCLR is a nonprofit organization that was created to promote LGBT rights through litigation, public policy advocacy and public education.

Roberts began private practice as an employment discrimination attorney in 1990 and also taught LGBT, legal, and labor studies at City College of San Francisco and San Francisco State University Extension. As a lawyer, her practice gravitated toward the defense of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights as well as women's and minority rights in the Bay Area. During her entire career, Roberts remained an outspoken advocate for feminist and LGBT rights. Patti Roberts died unexpectedly on January 7, 2011.

Gay Rights Skills Seminar, 1979
National Lawyers Guild (GLC 111. Box 7)
The Patti Roberts Papers (GLC 111) document her interest in prison reform, comparable worth and pay equity for women, gay and lesbian issues in the workplace, and employment discrimination. The collection contains subject files, photographs; books and magazines; and posters and ephemera.

There are notes and speeches for Roberts' speaking engagements, and course readers and syllabi for the classes she taught on the law and labor, employment, and gay and lesbian issues. Roberts collected newspaper clippings and some legal documents on Stephen Bingham, George Jackson, and San Quentin Prison. There are also some materials on the East Bay Lesbian / Gay Democratic Club and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Assessment of the Lesbian and Gay Labor Movement,
draft December 1991, p.1 (GLC 111. Box 3)
In addition, there are many pamphlets and books, including several publications by the National Lawyers Guild on gay rights and women's rights, some Soledad materials, and a few Weather Underground publications.

The Patti Roberts Papers (GLC 111) are available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. Photographs are available during Photo Desk hours.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Digital Transgender Archive Is Now Live

We at the Hormel Center received word today that The Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) has just launched its website!

The purpose of the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA) is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by providing an online hub for digitized historical materials, born-digital materials, and information on archival holdings throughout the world.

Please visit the site and explore the materials that are already online. The DTA has a number of items available via the Internet Archive, which will be incorporated into the site in the coming months. 

Note that this is a preliminary launch and the DTA is just beginning to grow its collections. Please check back often to see what's new! Feel free to contact them with any comments, suggestions, or feedback. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Stafford and Jordy (Photographer: Chloe Atkins)
The Hormel Center is thrilled to be one of the 9 institutions represented in the DTA from the outset. Finding aids for several of our collections with trans content are posted on the DTA. One of those is the Chloe Atkins Photographs Collection (GLC 38)

Drag Kings: BJ
(Photographer: Chloe Atkins)
Chloe's images feature individuals who explore different facets of gender expression. The Atkins Photographs Collection (GLC 38) is available during Photo Collection hours through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.