Sunday, June 12, 2011

I toured the Lesbian Herstory Archives

Never Done: I toured The Lesbian Herstory Archives

One of the highlights of Brooklyn Pride is that The Lesbian Herstory Archives opens up for a book sale. I went for the first time last year -- rummaged around the books for a little bit, and looked at beautiful original photographs of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, taken by Angela Jiminez who had recently published a book of documentary photography called Welcome Home.

This year I went again -- with a gaggle of friends -- and lucked into a tour of the upstairs of the archives. Files and boxes and closets and rooms full of papers and other ephemera. Archives and memorabilia of both individuals and organizations. And I had a kind of realization that is not uncommon to me: it took getting in the room and seeing it to understand the meaning and importance of the archive. In fact, it took one specific thing in the room itself: a box labeled Lesbian Avengers.

I was at the first Dyke March in at the LGBT March on Washington in 1993 (created and organized by the Lesbian Avengers) and as I remembered that and dozens more marches and actions and music festivals and my involvement with womyn's land and Ladies Against Women,
suddenly I realized that all the groups and activities I've been involved in over my life add up to archive-worthy history. And that without the archive, our history would be an assortment of individual and collective memories, but not a collection -- not a searchable archive -- not an institutionalized part of history that students and scholars and artists can use to further document, comment upon, and contextualize our lives.

There is so much more to say about this, and yet every time I write a sentence, I erase it because I basically keep writing the same thing over and over again. Our lives are important; our history is important; our lives are important; our history is important. So I think what I want to do here is to thank and appreciate Joan Nestle and Deb Edel and the other founders of the Archive for the vision to create the archive and to them and all the women who built it and maintained it over all these years. Thank you for creating an institution based on the mide (middah) of Humility: Seek wisdom from others.


  1. Another thing that I still haven't been able to do because I'm never there at the right time. Except that I WAS there in March 1979 with Kate Kasten when the archives were in a closet in Joan Nestle's closet. Kate and I contributed ephemera and wrote in the guestbook at that time. I'm hoping we later sent copies of our plays as well. Most of my work is now housed in the International Centre for Women Playwrights at Ohio State University, but my heart is at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. I'm so glad you went!

  2. It's a block from my house, Sandra -- ANOTHER thing that would be easy to do if/when you come visit.

  3. Wait, 2003? Dyke marches started in the 90s... when we were all waa-aay younger than we are now...

  4. Is that what I wrote? Typo! typo! 1993. Going in to correct it.

  5. Thanks for catching that, Kathleen!