Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Gerber/Hart Turns 25
by Amy Wooten

This article shared 3402 times since Wed Jan 25, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Pictured Gerber/Hart board and supporters. Photo by Mel Ferrand

Those at Gerber/Hart know that a sense of community can't exist without the knowledge of its own history.

The idea began in the 1970s to create a space that would collect, preserve and teach the history of the Chicago LGBT community. On Jan. 15, 1981, that idea came to fruition.

Twenty five years later, Edgewater's Gerber/Hart library is still alive and strong, celebrating its silver anniversary and continuing to shelve, display and store the life of a community. A quarter century has passed, and much around Gerber/Hart has changed. LGBT books can now be found in Borders, and Barnes & Noble. The information age has exploded. Acceptance of the community has grown, as well as Gerber/Hart's collection and space. But with its three-part mission as a library, archives and cultural center, Gerber/Hart looks towards the future, knowing it's as vital today as it was back then.

'It symbolizes the life of a people,' Gerber/Hart president and curator Karen Sendziak emphasized. 'That LGBT individuals did not just have a history after the Stonewall rebellion. That we were here on this earth long before, and there's a lot of evidence of that here at Gerber/Hart.'

Although much has changed, such as the Chicago Public Library and Chicago Historical Society building up their LGBT collections, Gerber/Hart tries to stick to the original intent of its founders: collecting everything from protest banners and meeting minutes to fiction novels and magazines. 'It still does much of the same thing, but everything around it has changed,' general collections and technology librarian Paul Keith said.

'Gerber/Hart was a forerunner, but what it is doing is still needed and important,' he added. 'And it's also kind of nice that it's community-owned, as opposed to Chicago History Society or Chicago Public Library, which really isn't as integrated with the gay community and as responsive to the gay community as Gerber/Hart is.'

'Its a big community, and to have a sense of the community, you have to have a sense of the past,' Keith said. Gerber/Hart doesn't house books simply because the author is gay, but 'stuff gay people have created about their community and about their experience as gay people.'

Historian John D'Emilio recently finished serving his four years on the Gerber/Hart's board of directors. He frequently sends his students to Gerber/Hart. 'The resources that Gerber/Hart hold are unmatched in the city.'

The historical archived material is what Gerber/Hart has that other places lack.

'That material exists nowhere else,' Sendziak said. 'It represents the lives of so many people.'

Many items that represent the community's past can't be found online or in bookstores. 'What we have here is vastly more important than just books,' Sendziak added. Individuals have donated a range of items, from paper records of organizations and people to buttons, pins, banners and photographs.

D' Emilio describes LGBT libraries such as Gerber/Hart as 'vital.' 'I think it's wonderful that we push and successfully win over mainstream institutions to be gay-friendly, but I also think that there's always a vital place for something like Gerber/Hart. It symbolizes the way our past and our present are connected. It's a symbol of how important history is to building community, even if we don't realize it,' he added.

For example, the giant, red lips from the now-defunct bar, Carol's Speakeasy, are housed in the archives room. 'There's no lips like that anywhere else,' Sendziak said, laughing. 'Every single object represents a moment in time that will never be repeated.'

When Sendziak came to Gerber/Hart as a volunteer in 1987 at the library's third location on Sheffield, things looked grim.

'When I joined Gerber/Hart, it was at it's lowest possible point,' Sendziak said. At that time, the library's founder, Gregory Sprague, had recently passed away due to AIDS-related tuberculosis. The male librarian, Joseph Gregg, also died of AIDS in November 1987. 'It wasn't so much an organization, but a collection,' she added.

But with the help of its devoted volunteers, Gerber/Hart is still the home to the community's history.

In 1979, the Chicago chapter of the Gay Academic Union opened a lending library on Ridge Avenue in Rogers Park. The library eventually folded, but on April 19, 1980, the Chicago Gay and Lesbian History Project, spearheaded by historian and researcher Gregory Sprague, and Gay Horizons threw a one-day drive to collect materials for a gay and lesbian archives. They sought gay magazines and newspapers; photos, letters and clippings of gay and lesbian people; records of defunct organizations; materials from current organizations; and gay and lesbian memorabilia.

In January of 1981, the Articles of Establishment of the 'Midwest Gay and Lesbian Archive and Library' went into effect. Later that year, the name was changed to include the names of Pearl Hart and Henry Gerber.

Hart, who practiced law, was dubbed the 'Guardian Angel of Chicago's Gay Community' for her fight against police harassment. Henry Gerber founded the first U.S. gay-rights organization, the Society for Human Rights in 1924, in Illinois.

The library and archives is completely run by volunteers, and every item in the library has been donated.

Gerber/Hart was located up and down the 3200 block of Sheffield until it moved to 3352 N. Paulina in 1991. After several name changes, five locations, a flooding, burglaries, an induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame and many Pride floats later, Gerber/Hart continues its mission of preservation and education.

For the future, Sendziak said Gerber/Hart will need to adapt to the times by further emphasizing history through encouraging academics to conduct and present their research at the library—something Gerber/Hart has already begun through events like its lecture series. 'There's so much research that needs to be done,' said Sendziak, who describes Gerber/Hart as the 'guardian repository of history.'

Sendziak also wants more equal footing between the archives and library by expanding the archives collection.

D'Emilio believes that this mission is crucial, because it will enable the Chicago LGBT community to preserve, present and teach its own history.

'Our mission is education,' Sendziak said. 'We want people to understand the lives of the people who came before them.'

She encourages people to refrain from tossing their items from their time spent at organizations. 'Give them to Gerber/Hart library,' Sendziak said. Gerber/Hart, she added, will put the materials into context through their rich knowledge of the U.S.'s and Chicago's LGBT history.

'People need to understand how valuable their lives are,' Sendziak stressed.

This article shared 3402 times since Wed Jan 25, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Jann Wenner comments on women and Black musicians, later apologizes 2023-09-18
- Openly gay Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner apologized for telling The New York Times that, for his book The Masters, he chose interviews with white male musicians who he called the "philosophers of rock" because ...

Gay News

BOOKS/SAVOR 'Made in Chicago' authors dish on stories behind local treats 2023-09-10
- When it comes to culinary scenes, Chicago is second to none, but do people really know the origins of local dishes—or even which ones have origins in this city? Revered food journalists Monica Eng and David ...

Gay News

THEATER Goodman to run 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' in 2024 2023-08-17
- Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Susan Booth announced that Chicago will be first to experience the new musical Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—based on John Berendt's iconic non-fiction book—next summer. With a book by ...

Gay News

BOOKS Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis candidly talks about life and new memoir 2023-08-07
- In the book Nobody Needs to Know: A Memoir, intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis details their journey through a sea of trauma that consisted of lies, misdirections and surgeries. It wasn't until their college years that Pagonis ...

Gay News

Dykes to Watch Out For launches as audio series 2023-08-02
- From 1983 to 2008, Alison Bechdel's comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For offered playful, incisive commentary on lesbian culture. Forty years after the comic's inception, it's been adapted into an audio series produced by author-journalist ...

Gay News

Musical parody 'Murder, Rewrote' to run Aug. 10-Sept. 16 2023-07-26
- Hell in a Handbag Productions will conclude its 21st season with the world-premiere musical parody Murder, ReWrote, playing Aug. 10-Sept. 16 at The Den Theatre (Upstairs Mainstage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. Murder, ReWrote features book and ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Radical poet, theorist, educator, activist Minnie Bruce Pratt 2023-07-07
- Radical poet, essayist, educator, theorist and feminist, LGBTQ+, anti-racist and anti-imperialist activist Minnie Bruce Pratt died June 2 in Syracuse, New York surrounded by friends and family members, after a brief and sudden illness. She was ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Rocker comes out, Billie Eilish, Luke Evans, 'Housewives,' 'Masculinity' book 2023-06-30
- Josh Kiszka, frontman for the Grammy-winning rock band Greta Van Fleet, came out as gay in an Instagram post, according to Instinct Magazine. He wrote, in part, "The greatest mortal gift of all is our capacity ...

Gay News

American Library Association to distribute $1M for the fight against censorship 2023-06-28
--From a press release - CHICAGO (June 22, 2023) — The American Library Association (ALA) will distribute $1 million to respond to censorship challenges ...

Gay News

SAVOR Movie cookbook, 'A Night of Hope,' restaurant closings and more 2023-06-26
- This week, SAVOR with Andrew's spotlight is actually on a book—Scrounging: A Cookbook. This unique cookbook contains late-night, last-ditch recipes and ingenious back-of-the-pantry meals straight from movies. Scrounging includes an ...

Gay News

Guest essay by Florida mom Nicole Pejovich: What's Happening to Florida's Public Schools? 2023-06-19
Related video below - A queer Florida parent answers questions about recent laws, how Floridians are coping, and how you can help Books pulled from school library shelves by the dozens. All evidence of inclusivity stripped from classrooms. The politically ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Biden, White House, Colorado Springs, Willi Ninja, Pulse, Prop 8 2023-06-16
- President Joe Biden plans to appoint a new federal coordinator to address the increase in book bans enacted across different states, among other pro-LGBTQ+ actions, according to CNN. Biden announced the actions during a news conference ...

Gay News

Lambda Literary names winners of the Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize 2023-06-08
--From a Lambda Literary press release - Lambda Literary is pleased to announce Ryka Aoki and Aaron Hamburger as the winners of the 2023 Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Dedicated to the memory of author and journalist Jim Duggins, this prize ...

Gay News

GLAAD and EveryLibrary announce Community Response Toolkit 2023-06-06
--From a press release - (New York, NY - June 6, 2023) GLAAD, the world's largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, along with EveryLibrary, a national organization supporting campaigns against book bans, announce a new resource to help communities unite and engage ...

Gay News

THEATER Queer performer Yurel Echezarreta tells his 'Side' of the 'Story' 2023-06-06
- The classic musical West Side Story (by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents) has gone through countless iterations from its 1957 origin, including the Oscar-winning ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.