Saving History: Sex and Culture

Marlene says:

I’ve been going to events at the Center for Sex and Culture for years. I’ve even written about one of them. One of CSC’s little secrets is their archive. It isn’t really a secret. Plenty of people know such a thing exists, but few have seen or used it. I’m going to try to change that.

Few people have seen the CSC archive because it’s a mess. The impressive collection has been built over the years out of passion and concern, but there has never been a concerted effort to organize the materials. I am giving two weeks of my vacation time organizing what is there. I’ll be starting on Tuesday July 6 .

The archive is full of historical materials that are important for scholarly research. The most important to me, document the great efforts of people to free themselves from the constraints of heteronormative patriarchal society in the latter half of the twentieth century. The archive contains evidence of a changing world that was suddenly snuffed out by AIDS, just as things were starting to develop. The archive also contains records of the ways people reinvented a free sexuality in response to AIDS. There is history here that has been preserved, but not yet recorded. This has remained un-sorted and un-useable, but I’m going to fix that.

The archive contains sexy treasures. I’m excited to see it all. I know that Cynthia Slater’s personal papers are there (she co-founded the Society of Janus). I know there are collections of fan letters to porn stars. I know there is a ghastly quantity of VHS tapes that will eventually be transferred to digital media. I know that there is one of those vibrating Harry Potter broomsticks that was pulled from store shelves after only a few days on sale. There is tons more than that, literally. I’ve named just a few of the things that I know are there with certainty.

My intention is to get everything in to proper boxes, on shelves that are not at risk of collapsing. I will be doing an preliminary catalog and site map as I go. This first pass organizational effort should make it possible for more detailed processing of the materials and more careful preservation efforts to follow. This is a big job, and I hope to have this first pass done in my two week vacation (with the help of a few charming interns).

July 6 is coming very soon and I need your help. I need shelves and boxes. I need shelves and boxes that all fit together like a library rather than like someone’s garage. That means I need to buy the shelves and boxes specifically to suit the space and materials.

I need to buy them ASAP and I’m asking you to help me pay for them. If I skimp, I can probably get it done for five hundred dollars. A thousand dollars would really begin to make it a library. Donations of any size will make a difference.

A donation can be made here. This is the regular CSC donation form, so it is important that you include the word “archive” in place of your first name for the shipping address.

Thank you for your help. I believe that preserving this material and making it accessible will benefit the world in ways I can’t yet imagine.