Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


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



LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH San Francisco Public Library digitizes LGBTQ+ archives, including Harvey Milk holdings
by Matthew S. Bajko

This article shared 2172 times since Sun Oct 9, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Shot with black-and-white film, two small children stand outside in a San Francisco public plaza draped in protest signs. One reads, "We're Proud, Not Stigmatized." The other declares, "We Love Our Gay Parents."

In the right background of the photograph, taken June 3, 1977, can be seen Harvey Milk, the gay civil rights leader. He would go on to become the first LGBTQ+ person elected to public office in both the city of San Francisco and the state of California that November.

The image was taken by photographer Cathy Cade, a longtime lesbian activist, and is titled "Rally for Jeanne Jullion." According to a note about the photo, Jullion was a lesbian mother ensnared at the time in a custody battle for her kids.

She can be seen on the right side of the photo wearing glasses and a two-piece pantsuit talking to a woman whose back is facing Cade's camera lens. Jullion is also shown in a smaller picture with her two sons, superimposed on the bottom right of Cade's photo.

It is part of the online Hormel LGBTQIA Center Collection maintained by the San Francisco Public Library. It consists of digitized photographs, manuscripts, documents, and other primary source materials from the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center housed at the city's Main Library in the Civic Center district.

The site went live last December and allowed the library's Digi Center to aggregate LGBTQ historical photos that had previously been published in other sections of the library's main website so they were easier for researchers, students, and others seeking out LGBTQ material to find.

"I think it is a great way to share the archive with the world," said Dee Dee Kramer, a lesbian who is the manager of the library's Digi Center, in her first press interview about the LGBTQ archival digitization effort. "People think of libraries as having books you check out. But we also have archives like photos, government records, or people's personal stuff that is unpublished or unique and doesn't exist in other places. Being able to share that online I think is really special."

New LGBTQ archival items have since been uploaded to the library's online repository, including a micro-section titled "Preserving LGBTQ Historical Highlights" that went live in June during Pride Month. It was funded by a $7,020 grant the library received in 2019 from the California State Library and includes a wealth of material related to Milk.

One highlight is an audio recording of one of the three "Political Will" tapes Milk made in case he was assassinated, which tragically ended up occurring the morning of Nov. 27, 1978. Disgruntled former supervisor Dan White shot dead Milk and then-mayor George Moscone inside San Francisco City Hall.

There are also a number of Milk's writings, such as his "Milk Forum" column that ran in the B.A.R., and an edited copy of his famous "You've Got to Have Hope" speech he gave June 24, 1977.

Throughout the 11 pages are handwritten edits made to a typed copy of Milk's speech, including to the final, and most famous, line of it, "You got to give them hope." Crossed out is the word "I" and a verb that is unable to be discerned in front of the word "you," while the word "must" that initially had been typed with an underline is crossed out and replaced with "got to."

"Harvey's will and speeches are in such incredible demand," noted Kramer. "School students from across the country want to look at the speeches."

Now they can do so without having to physically travel to San Francisco, added Kramer. They also now have digital access to LGBTQ material at a time when public libraries and school districts across the country are banning LGBTQ books and curriculums at the urging of right-wing leaders and conservative parents.

"We live in a time where we can make them available to anyone with a browser and an internet connection. It is just huge," said Kramer, who formerly had served as program manager for the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center. "I think for queer people, too, it really has changed the game in being able to find context for yourself and other people."

Effort delayed by pandemic

The effort to digitize the library's various LGBTQ historical holdings was delayed by the COVID pandemic, as the city in March 2020 shuttered its public libraries and reassigned library staff members to assist in dealing with the health crisis. Kramer worked as a contact tracer, calling people who were potentially exposed to the coronavirus, for instance, and helped distribute food to those in need.

When she returned to her library duties in July 2021, Kramer took over as the Digi Center manager and found the LGBTQ digitization effort among her to-do list. The center oversees DigitalSF, which is the website for the San Francisco Public Library's Digital Collections, and has wanted to increase its digitized holdings accessible to the public for years.

Kramer and her colleagues first set about on a plan to make it easier for people to find the digital material the library had already posted online. They also worked on how to display the material and what navigation tools to include for them.

They have also been creating a better catalog for the materials already digitized and adding them to the correct collections on the DigitalSF website. For instance, more of Cade's photos in the library's holdings should be added in time to the lone one of the Jullion rally currently found on the webpage for the "Cathy Cade Photographs Collection."

The same is true for the "Chloe Atkins Photographs Collection," which as of now also has just one photo posted online in it. But a finding aid for the Hormel center's holdings of Atkins' decades-long career photographing the Bay Area's lesbian scene indicates there are countless more of the photographer's works that could be added to the digital archive.

The library's digital records for the pioneering gay rights activist Harry Hay are far more extensive. The webpage for the "Harry Hay Papers" has 50 different items, including a 1935 black-and-white portrait of a dashing Hay with his right arm in salute.

There is also a trove of photos from negatives taken during San Francisco police investigations from 1945 through 1969 into bookstores, sex-oriented businesses, theaters, and art shows that featured gay and LGBTQ+ content. Another collection features a scrapbook from the 1950s detailing the arrest and trial of Grace Miller and Joyce van de Veer, the owners of several bars frequented by gays and lesbians.

One project Kramer said the Digi Center is working on is scanning books of mug shots taken by the police of suspects arrested decades ago on sodomy charges and other sex-related crimes. The historical material provides a unique look into that era of LGBTQ history, she noted.

"It makes for useful research and a whole different kind of lens to look through," said Kramer.

The Digi Center also wants to digitize the photos in the library's Tenderloin Times Photograph Archive, which also relates to LGBTQ history. The publication's coverage of the city's Tenderloin district and its many LGBTQ residents includes photos of early AIDS protests and other LGBTQ demonstrations and events.

"When you sort of queer the archives, it is not just going to be the Hormel center where these materials arise," noted Kramer.

There are currently two-dozen different LGBTQ digital collections on the library's website, with more to be added in the coming months. During LGBTQ History Month in October, Kramer hopes to add two collections featuring the works of photographers Robert Giard and Rick Gerharter, two gay men who helped to document the LGBTQ community on both coasts. Giard, who died in 2002, documented the theater scene in New York City, while Gerharter for decades has taken photos for the B.A.R. of the Bay Area LGBTQ community.

While the digital archives do not replace the need to protect the physical materials housed at the library's Hormel center and San Francisco History Center, Kramer said, they do play an important role in the preservation and distribution of the archival holdings.

"Digitizing is not preserving," she noted. "But if you have a tape that is 30 years old, the sound quality is going to degrade. So digitizing it is one way to migrate it to a format that people will continue to have access to it. This way it is still playable and listenable."

Growing up in North Carolina in the 1970s and 1980s, Kramer said she wishes she had access to such LGBTQ material. It can be empowering for people who otherwise feel invisible, she noted.

"When you are able to go on a site and see these things, it changes lives," said Kramer. "When people go online and find something they recognize or see themselves in, it is a really big deal."

Matthew S. Bajko is an assistant editor at the Bay Area Reporter.

This article shared 2172 times since Sun Oct 9, 2022
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
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

WORLD Quebec lesbians, violence study, Rugby World Cup, Ugandan bill
The hidden history of Quebec lesbians is being explored, the CBC reported. Between 1985 and 1996, a group of lesbians leased the Plateau-Mont-Royal school and ran it as a community center. The school was also home ...

Gay News

BOOKS/SAVOR 'Made in Chicago' authors dish on stories behind local treats
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

Gilbert Baker Foundation reacts to death of shop owner who flew the rainbow flag
--From a press release - In response to the murder of Laura Ann Carleton over flying the Rainbow flag in her shop in California, the Gilbert Baker Foundation released the statement below. Facebook refused to post the statement as it did not " their standards." ...

Gay News

Musician Carlos Santana deletes apology after anti-trans rant
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Carlos Santana took down an apology he posted on his Facebook page after a viral video emerged showing him saying transgender people should stay "in the closet" while performing ...

Gay News

African American Arts Alliance of Chicago names new president for first time in 25 years
--From a press release - CHICAGO—The nonprofit African American Arts Alliance of Chicago announced Charlique C. Rolle as its new board president, effective immediately. Rolle is the first new president in the Alliance's 26-year history ...

Gay News

THEATER Goodman to run 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' in 2024
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

Amigas Latinas Forever and queer Gage Park art exhibits open at Chicago Art Department
Amigas Latinas Forever, an art exhibit exploring this important Chicago organization (1995-2015), opened Aug. 11 at the Chicago Art Department, 1932 S. Halsted St. An additional exhibit, En El Abismo, Me Encontre by the Gage Park ...

Gay News

BOOKS Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis candidly talks about life and new memoir
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

Diana Taurasi becomes first WNBA player to score 10K points
Diana Taurasi—an LGBTQ+ WNBA player who was already the highest scoring athlete in league history—extended her record in a significant way. Taurasi (a teammate of Brittney Griner) became the first player in WNBA history to score ...

Gay News

Dykes to Watch Out For launches as audio series
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
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

CABARET 'Swell Soiree' taking place Aug. 16
The Sarah Siddons Society will present the Swell Soiree—an evening of cabaret performances celebrating The Great American Songbook—on Wed., Aug. 16, at 6 p.m. at Piano Forte, 1335 S. Michigan Ave. Some of Chicago's most talented ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Emmys, 'Top Chef,' Hyphen Hyphen, Da Brat, 'Transparent,' Ben Cohen
Videos below - As the Emmy nominations were announced (with Succession leading with 27 noms), openly gay Paris Barclay made history. According to Deadline, the two-time Emmy winner is the first Black (and, certainly, Black gay) director to sweep ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Radical poet, theorist, educator, activist Minnie Bruce Pratt
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 ...


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.