This is the institution that Susan Stryker collected my oral history for.
SFO Bay Times 2/18/2010
Historical Society Re-Launches Passionate Struggle Archives
By Dennis McMillan
February 18, 2010
Exhibit consultant Elisabeth Cornus with curators Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi.
Since 1985, the GLBT Historical Society has collected, documented, preserved, and shared the queer community’s rich and varied history. The Society keeps history alive through its archives, exhibits, and programming. The “Passionate Struggle” archives, being part of the GLBT Historical Society, have moved from the temporary Castro location to that of the Society in the 657 Mission Street building. These have been reinstalled and re-launched in the main gallery downtown. Now 20% of the pieces have been rotated out. “The structure is basically the same,” said Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, “but it has been updated and added to.”
It divides the queer history of San Francisco into four parts all starting with the letter “p”: people, places, politics, and pleasure. “It’s a way of surveying queer history, and of particular interest to visitors to the City,” he said. Boneberg announced a major exhibit will open in the summer for their silver anniversary in the Castro. “I am more hopeful than I’ve ever been that we will be back in the Castro again,” Boneberg told Bay Times.
They are in final negotiations with Walgreens. After a delay of several months, the GLBT Historical Society recently received a renewed offer from the Walgreens Corporation to lease a storefront for a new Castro exhibit. This storefront is on 18th Street, right off Castro Street. It is twice as large as the previous Castro Street exhibit, and would allow them to increase their programming significantly. The proposed lease would be for five years, with rent substantially lower than market rate. The Society calls it “a very generous offer.”
Walgreens and the Historical Society are endeavoring to move quickly to obtain permits and begin construction. Boneberg said the exhibit in the Castro will look at the 25 year history of LGBT people in the Bay Area and look to the future as well.
Meanwhile, the Society has refreshed “Passionate Struggle” while a committee is working on a totally new exhibit. “We didn’t know when we took down ‘Passionate Struggle’ from its space at Castro and 18th how it would fit in our downtown gallery; but as it turns out, it fits as if it was planned to be here,” said co-curator Don Romesburg. “It’s nice to be able to show off what is our crown jewel of our city history.” He noted there have been several changes. For instance, they have brought in more items related to queer people of color. Photographs are new, including the Committee for Homosexual Freedom from 1969, picketing a steamship company after it fired an employee for appearing in a gay newspaper. There is an issue of Diseased Pariah News – one of their most controversial, in-your-face issues – as a play on “This is your brain on drugs.” Fancy is a transgender woman who gave them her collection, including one in a series of pamphlets, “Religious Aspects of Transsexualism by the Erickson Educational Foundation” from 1971 about how to inform one’s family and people in the faith community of the support a trans person needs. There is a fairly explicit pamphlet with quite erotic images on safer sex targeting African American men from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a relatively conservative organization at that time. Another new item is “The Bimonthly,” the newsletter of the Bisexual Center, founded in 1976, when a lot of people in the bi community were struggling to find their own voice. Visitors who frequented the Castro museum are challenged to find the rest of the new items in the exhibit.
“I am really grateful for all the volunteers who not only kept ‘Passionate Struggle’ alive in the Castro but also enabled us to come into the Mission,” said co-curator Amy Sueyoshi. “We are mostly volunteer run and couldn’t do this without the volunteers’ support.”
Elizabeth Cornu, head object conservator at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and exhibit consultant, made sure items were properly cared for in the transfer and display process (from the Mission to the Castro and back to the Mission), that nothing would be damaged. “I have been involved off and on with the GLBT Historical Society over the years, and I seem to have intensified my assistance,” she said. “It’s just sort of a natural progression.”
She added, “They ask me questions, and I come and help. It’s fun, and I love it.”
A specialized exhibit, “Keepin’ On:” Images of African American Lesbians,” has also been installed on two of the walls of the Mission location. It is sponsored by the Lesbian Herstory Archives, created in 1991 to celebrate and honor the diversity, creativity, and strength of the African American lesbian community. The title comes from the phrase Mabel Shampton used when working at the Archives: “keep on keepin’ on.” She was one of the first volunteers at the Archives and was out in the African American community her entire life. She died in 1989 at the age of 87. The Lesbian Herstory Archives was founded in 1974.
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