An Influential LGBT Archive in Need

Transgender curator Bet Power sets out to save an important LGBT archive.

The Sexual Minorities Archives, a collection of artifacts and files that traces the history of LGBT people, has been run out of 64-year-old Bet Power’s home in Massachusetts for the past 31 years. This year, he received some bad news: The landlord was selling the house. So, Power, a disabled, transgender, former businessman on a seriously beautiful mission, took to crowdfunding to try and raise about $10,000 to start to buy the house.

Power raised enough money to start the process of procuring the home and is now in the midst of a campaign to raise another $30,000 to complete the sale, after which, he can begin making mortgage payments. This will protect the collection, which is described on the Archives’ Facebook page as “8,000 books, 800 periodical titles with 17,000 individual issues, thousands of subject files, personal collections, organizational collections, oral histories, independent research and academic papers, audio and video cassettes, CDs, DVDs, slideshows, vinyl record collection, print and e-newsletters, posters, art, comic books, t-shirts, buttons, photographs, correspondence, and ephemera.” Power pulled out some of the Archives' more rare material for New England Public Radio in a story last week: “So the house we’re standing in has the only full set of One Magazine, for example, which published in 1952 – the first gay publication, homosexual publication in the United States. I’ll show you the rarest book in here. It’s a 1939 First Edition of the World is Round by Gertrude Stein.” The house also has significant collections of correspondence to/from Louis Graydon Sullivan and many other TLGBIQ activists and authors.

Book Room 1 in the Sexual Minorities Archives

Power actually started the Archives in Chicago in 1974, before moving to his current location in Northhamptom, Massachusetts in 1979, where he’s built a life around curating the Archives.

“The Archives House serves as an important grassroots, community educational hub for all queer people and our allies,” said Power on the crowdfunding page GoFundMe. “Currently our operations at the house include hosting four paid summer interns and an assistant archivist, each of whom learns and furthers the SMA queer archival methods—handling, processing, and cataloging precious materials—every day. Each time a queer protects and makes accessible a piece of queer history—that is queer activism.”

Queer Vinyl in the SMA.

Photos courtesy Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, Inc.

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