Lesbian Herstory Archives Subject Files

I am pleased to announce a major acquisition on microfilm, the Lesbian Herstory Archives Subject Files. This is a huge collection of 150 reels of microfilm. An additional reel provides a guide to the collection. The Lesbian Herstory Archives started in 1974 at a time when gay men and lesbian women began actively and vocally and sometimes militantly organizing to demand and defend their right to an equal place in American society. A newsletter of the Archives in 1975 explained:

“The Lesbian Herstory Archives exists to gather and preserve records of lesbian lives and activities so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The process of gathering this material will also serve to uncover and collect our herstory denied to us previously by patriarchal historians in the interests of the culture which they serve…”

The intention from the start was to represent the lives of all lesbians which meant that the Archives itself would have to be very diverse and open to both mainstream and specialized publications as well ephemera. In 2004 the “Archives housed 20,000 volumes, 12,000 photographs, 400 special collections, 2000 periodical titles, 3000 organizational and subject files, thousands of feet of film and video footage, art and artifacts, musical records and tapes, posters and t-shirts, buttons, and personal memorabilia…”

The Subject Files of the Archives are a subset of the complete Archives. The selection process for the Subject Files is based on “relevancy, rarity, and research need”. Items need to be relevant to lesbian history and life in America, rare enough that they are not likely to be easily found elsewhere, and fill a genuine research need of writers and scholars. Since this collection represents a slice of American life during the late 20th and early 21st centuries any number of departments and programs will benefit from it.

If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the microform readers in Paley Library, let me know and I can help you get set up. Often people need a gentle push when working with microfilm.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

—Fred Rowland

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