Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Letter to the Botts Collection in Houston

Dear Larry Criscione:

I am happy, even gay, to hear from you and that you are working to save that material.  That you say some was harmed in the storm is an example of  what we have worried about all these years—as there have been at least a dozen (not all glbt) archives harmed by weather, fire, etc, or just general falling apart.

And your work is an example of why most of our lgbt archives/libraries have little time to communicate with each other.  We are working with the few volunteers we have.

In the discussion with other people, including those in Houston, we have for years tried to decide what the best answer is to how to preserve and USE the material we have that documents this civil rights movement, which since it only started in 1950 makes it easier than those of the women’s or black Americans’.

We at ONE/HIC, before the separation and after, were at first a magazine and educational organization but knew that while we were making history the library would be valuable long after we were gone.  And we hoped that other people and groups would join the work, which history shows they have done more than could have been dreamed.

We knew the best way would be to have control of our material, but that needed an endowment which we never got.  There was a tax-exempt part formed (ISHR) but its  money was, sadly, wasted over legal fighting.

After the deaths of the three main people at ONE, Dorr Legg, Don Slater, and Jim Kepner, there was an effort made to rejoin all the material that had  been saved by the then three separate parts of the original ONE.  Two, ONE (Legg) and IGLA (Kepner) joined and now still exist as ONE Archives which this month were donated to the USC Library.  We at the HIC (Slater) tried to rejoin but had again disagreements and have now placed our material at the library at Cal State Northridge, where it is safe-the library was rebuilt after an earthquake so is partly underground.

Another example of a collection that chose the same answer is the Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota—which is hosting an exhibit of the collection this November, thus showing that one fear we had did not happen-that a library would not want to use the material.

Others have been able to get space from local glbt centers—such as in Philadelphia, (William Way) or have separate housing, such as in Chicago (Gerber Hart) or Fort Lauderdale (Stonewall) or Quatrefoil (Minneapolis/St Paul).  A Few own their own building—obviously needing much income—such as Lesbian Herstory in New York.

So we chose the middle way: the material is housed at a university, but we have some control and keep adding and can host events, etc.

The obvious problem you know well is that we still need community/movement support from the local glbt media and organizations to not only donate their material but urge support of their members.  Young people have to learn why our history is important.  That is why we need to reach lgbt organizations at the universities.  It is interesting that people will not donate to a library if they have to give through a church.  I would think MCC needs an archive itself.

Your work is important and is not done by any other part of our community/movement.  Supporting our work is no competition to the work of their groups, such as legal, religious, social service, etc.  We need to get people to understand this.  Hopefully college students will learn and join the work.  And people can give time when they retire.  So I think we will just have to work in the meantime.  So best wises and we can keep exchanging ideas and news.

No comments: