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Collections

What we collect -- and why

Every archive or library has to decide what kind of material it will gather, preserve, and make available. Factors shaping such decisions include: the institution's specific purpose and constituency; the limits of its human, physical and financial resources; and the availability of similar material held elsewhere by other archives or libraries.

The Canadian Gay Archives (as it was then called) developed its first collection mandate in late 1975. It has been revised a number of times since then, to reflect changing needs and conditions. Here is the latest version.

Mandate of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was established to aid in the recovery and preservation of our histories. Its mandate is to acquire, preserve, organize, and give public access to information and materials in any medium, by and about lesbians and gays, primarily produced in or concerning Canada. To support this function the Archives also maintains major non-archival collections including: a research library, international subject files, and an international collection of lesbian and gay periodicals.

To achieve this mandate the holdings will consist of:

A. Archival Records

The Archives relies exclusively on donations of materials to build up its archival holdings. It reserves the right to decide what materials to keep in all areas in which it collects.

  1. Personal and Organizational Records: We acquire the records of Canadian lesbian and gay organizations, with special emphasis on ensuring representation of diversity within the communities; the personal records of prominent Canadian lesbians and gays; and the records of other Canadians deemed to have historical significance for our communities.
    Note: The Archives cannot accept and maintain electronic records due to long-term conservation and physical access problems (e.g., changing technology). Donor organizations or individuals are encouraged to download important files or documents and provide us with a paper record.


  2. Vertical Files: These files contain information on individuals, organizations, and events. They are divided into three categories: Canadian, American, and other countries. Canadian files are expanding much more quickly than the others.

  3. Photographic Collection: The photograph collection consists of prints, negatives, colour transparencies, and slides acquired separately or as part of larger holdings of archival records. The photographic work of Canadian lesbian and gay artists is of special interest to this collection. It also includes some international material.

  4. Moving Images: Due to the problems of changing technology and conservation of film and video, the Archives collects selectively in this area. The collection consists of:

    1. Erotica: The primary focus is on collecting Canadian lesbian erotica and gay- male erotica. A study collection of non-Canadian erotica has been assembled, based on carefully established criteria, and is added to judiciously.

    2. Other: We acquire Canadian and selected foreign non-erotic film and video titles.


  5. Posters: The Archives collects two copies of Canadian lesbian and gay posters, and single copies of posters from foreign countries.

  6. Audiotapes: Our audiotape collection is overwhelmingly Canadian in content. Some material on other countries is also acquired.

  7. Cartographic and Architectural Plans: The Archives collects two copies of Canadian maps and one copy of non-Canadian material. Architectural plans are selected according to their relevance to the lesbian and gay communities (e.g., the plans for the first AIDS Memorial competition in Toronto).

  8. Artifacts: Most archives do not collect artifacts, or only very selectively, relying on museums to do so. As these museums do not collect material documenting our lesbian and gay communities in all their variety, the Archives endeavours to retain artifacts that document our activities, and which are readily stored and present few conservation problems. These include:

    1. T-shirts: Given their publicly visible messages about lesbian and gay events and history, T-shirts form an essential element in documenting evolving lesbian and gay identities. As the Archives now has a large collection of Canadian and some foreign T- shirts, the future growth of the collection will be limited to three areas: i. Expanding the pre-1985 Canadian holdings; ii. Selecting examples of post-1985 Canadian T-shirts; iii. Selecting pre-1985 foreign material that is of documentary importance.

    2. Buttons and Pins: Canadian material is the priority. The large collection of pre- 1985 foreign buttons will be maintained.

    3. Matchbooks and Matchboxes: The emphasis in collecting is on Canadian material. Only the covers are kept due to the conservation hazard posed by the matches.

    4. Banners and Flags: Due to conservation problems, banners that are not silkscreened or otherwise made of material requiring little conservation are photographed and the banners deaccessioned. The photographs are attached to the appropriate accessions.

    5. Uniforms: Uniforms are acquired very selectively.

    6. Leather: As leather gear is well documented throughout many archival accessions, we do not acquire common leather artifacts.

    7. Trophies and Plaques: These are not a priority and are acquired only very selectively.

    8. Other Artifacts: Other types of artifacts are acquired on a case by case basis, following the criteria established in the preamble to section 8, Artifacts.

  9. Works of Art: The Archives has judiciously assembled a collection of lesbian and gay art, primarily Canadian works on paper or canvas, with a special emphasis on historical works.

  10. Sound Discs and Tapes: The Archives holds a large collection of records, tapes, and compact discs, with lesbian and gay content, by Canadian and international lesbian and gay artists. This collection also contains material of a documentary nature that has been captured in this medium.

B. The James Fraser Library

The titles in this research library are acquired as resources and donations permit. As the acquisitions budget is small and reserved for reference works, there is a heavy reliance on donations.

  1. Books and Monographs: There are five major portions to the collection:
    1. Non-fiction and Biographies: This rapidly expanding, heavily used portion of the Library consists primarily of non-Canadian titles.

    2. Reference: This section contains reference books and bibliographies.

    3. Novels (including erotica): We collect Canadian titles (in their several editions); all non-Canadian novels published before 1982, including works that are historically significant but may not be primarily lesbian or gay in content; all autographed non- Canadian titles; and small press works, especially lesbian titles.

    4. Dramatic Works and Poetry: This collection includes Canadian titles (in their several editions), as well as non-Canadian works.

    5. Monographs: Monographs consist primarily of works of non-fiction and pamphlets. Because they cannot stand alone on the shelves, they are stored apart from the books. While the focus is clearly Canadian, the Archives collects selected foreign material that is deemed important.
  2. Lesbian and Gay Periodicals: This collection is the largest of its kind in the world. Where possible, existing non-Canadian newspaper format material will be replaced by microform.

  3. Canadian Daily Press Clippings: This collection dates largely from 1960 and includes newspapers from across Canada. Titles we do not possess and pre-1960 material are especially sought after.

  4. Non-lesbian/gay Periodicals: The "straight" periodical collection consists of selected non- Canadian daily newspapers, Canadian student newspapers, magazines and periodicals. Except for special numbers, where whole issues are kept, only the appropriate clippings and articles are retained. Material on all aspects of AIDS for the pre- 1986 period is acquired. Non-Canadian material on the medical aspects of AIDS published after 1985 is not collected.
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