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Links for virtual tour:       an intro to the archives  | by floor  |  the collections   

The Collections: Books and Monographs Our 11,000 books, by and/or about lesbians, date from the 19th century to the present. They have all been catalogued and can be searched on the computer by author, title, publisher, date and keywords. In addition to the books in the Archives, we keep one exact duplicate and one of every different duplicate (different cover, preface, edition) stored off site.
The books are divided into several categories, the largest being fiction/biography/autobiography and literary criticism. These books, as well as the mysteries, science fiction, children’s, young adult, poetry and humor books (which are shelved separately) are organized differently from most libraries. First, all books pertaining to an author, such as biographies and literary criticism, are shelved along with her own work. This makes it much easier to do research. Second, books are shelved by the first name of the author, a reflection of the Archives’ founding during the lesbian-feminist 1970s. We have maintained this order since it is, in itself, an artifact reflecting part of our communities’ herstory.

We also have separate sections for poetry anthologies and prose anthologies, shelved alphabetically by the title, as are the pulp novels, which date from the 1930’s to the present. We call these “survival literature” since they were often the only depictions of lesbian life and sex available from the 1930s to the 1960s. In addition to books, the theatre, film and video categories contain original scripts, many of which are unpublished.

Our non-fiction collection is divided into several categories as well. You’ll find sections on Herstory/History (including oral histories); Lesbian-Feminism and Lesbian Theory; Health; Social Science (which includes politics, community studies, psychology, economics, anthropology, sociology); Culture; Sports; Sexuality (including “our enemies”); Religion/Spirituality; and Art/Photography. These are shelved alphabetically by title within each category except for Art/Photography books, which are shelved by the first name of the artist/photographer.

The reference collection also contains several categories: bibliographies, indexes, directories, encyclopedias, catalogs, guides, and other major reference works on lesbian/gay history. This is where we keep our own in-house guides to the collection, with printouts of our subject file headings, special collections, organizations, books, unpublished papers, T-shirts, and videos.

...many of our collections are catalogued in databases at our building. one of our plans for the future is to make those databases available online...

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book and monographs
subject files
audio-visual collection
special collections
periodical collection
organizational files
geographic files
biographical files

Our Red Dot Collection
(click to enlarge)

We also have what we call our International Collection, books in languages other than English. Some are books originally published in English and then translated into other languages; others are books originally published in languages other than English.

Finally, we have two special book collections that are actually historical artifacts. There is what we call The Red Dot Collection (there’s one on the spine of each volume). This collection was acquired from the New York Chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis. It had been located in their resource room and collected from their inception in 1960 until 1971, when the chapter was disbanded. Jane Kogan handled the transferal of this book collection to Lesbian Herstory Archives. While we have most of these books in our own collection we keep them together (and they are catalogued separately on our database) because they represent what an early lesbian organization felt should be available to its members.

We also have a separate collection of books from the Marge MacDonald Special Collection. Again, our own collection has most of these books. We keep them together because Marge MacDonald bequeathed these to us in her will, along with her journals and other papers. Because she had filed those legal papers we were able to save her collection from being destroyed by her family. On tours of the Archives, we use this collection as a way to remind our visitors that every lesbian life is of value. We urge you to find a place, either the Lesbian Herstory Archives or elsewhere, that will honor your life, and to begin to donate your personal papers and materials early in your life, adding to them over the years. By doing this, and also making a legal bequest in your will, you life story will be safe and available so the next generation of lesbians will have access to their herstory.

Next - Subject Files

Continue Virtual Tour:       an intro to the archives  | by floor  |  the collections