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Donating Materials: Special Collection

As noted earlier, our Special Collections are made up of the personal papers of individual lesbians or the papers from LGBT organizations with known lesbian participation. In the case of organizations, a Special Collection is usually created after an organization no longer exists and sends us its papers. One can also be created when an individual who helped found an organization or worked in it for a long time sends us papers about that organization and asks that it be kept as a Special Collection rather than simply being integrated into our Organization Files.

While we have Special Collections from many “well-known” lesbians and from large organizations, we also have many collections from lesbians you have probably never heard of, lesbians who – like most of us –live their lives in relative anonymity and belong to or have created local, small organizations. We especially value the latter because our goal is to have Special Collections from as wide and diverse a group of lesbians and communities as possible. For the holdings of the Archives to reflect the complexities and richness of our varied communities, lives and internationalities, we need all your stories – ranging from women who have lived their lives as lesbians to transgendered women living as lesbians, to married women who remember the one affair they had, to lesbian sex workers, to lesbian mothers of lesbian daughters – and we need these stories in all the languages you speak. In that way our history will more accurately reflect the range of lives we have led rather than reducing us to a stereotype or to a few “famous” women.

...we urge you
to start creating your
special collection

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Forms - Find forms for donating materials and money to the archives.
Special Collections - Learn how to create and donate your Special Collection

Creating Your Special Collection
We urge you to start creating your Special Collection today. Save your letters, emails, birthday cards, photographs of friends, lovers, and family, your unpublished poetry or prose, work related papers, papers indicating your participation in organizations you have belonged to, and so on. You might want to make a video, an audiotape or a CD about your life or community. If the Special Collection your are creating is from an organization you belonged to, it can include all types of organizational papers including minutes, leaflets, photos, and newspaper articles about it or articles of incorporation if relevant. Here are some pointers for the physical well being of your collection:

  • Store your papers and keepsakes in a clean, cool, dry, dark place. Dampness, heat, and overexposure to dust and sun encourage paper and electronic recordings to decay. Keep moldy documents away from everything else.
  • Unfold all papers so they lie flat. Creases tear easily as paper ages. Remove metal staples - they rust. Use plastic paper clips when possible and do not use tape. The adhesive on most clear and masking tapes is very acidic, and causes paper to yellow. Remove acidic tape from your precious documents before it is too late.
  • Don't keep photographs in those stickum photo albums; the stickum is acidic and will ruin your photos over time. Mylar or other archival plastic sleeves or acid free paper backing with the little corner mounts are best. Label the back of your photos in soft #1 pencil (pen seeps through eventually) with the dates, location, and names of the people in the picture.

And, here are some of the ways you can make your documents and other materials most accessible and understandable to the people who will use your collection:

  • If possible, include an outline or timeline of the major events in your life in either written or recorded form. Be as lengthy or brief as you like, then organize the collection using your outline.
  • Identify the people whose letters appear in your collection, making clear who wrote what, and arrange the letters in order by time and/or correspondent. You might want to add a description of your relationship to them and other information about them.
  • Arrange other writing, photographs, clippings and keepsakes similarly.
  • Use folders (acid-free folders are best) for your materials and give them headings, for e.g., “LETTERS, GLORIOUS R. DYKES, 1981-1989” or “PHOTOS, SOFTBALL TEAM, 1985.”
  • Clearly label your photographs, clippings and other items with names, dates and locations. Include notes explaining how the memorabilia, flyers and clippings relate to your life.

Donating Your Special Collection to the Archives
Although you can donate your Special Collection at the Archives at any point in your life. we suggest you to begin at an early age. But whenever you decide to send your material to the Archives you should, if possible, follow the suggestions above.

Send the material to our mailing address along with which ever of our Donor Forms apply to the type of material you are sending. It is essential that you include Donor Forms with your collection. They allow you to state how and under what conditions you will allow access to and use of the material in your collection. These are important decisions you should think about carefully. And, without them we must stringently restrict their use by researchers.

Once you send us your material and the donor forms, we will give your Special Collection a number and add it to our database along with any instructions you send regarding its use. We suggest that you keep a copy of the donor forms. You can add to your collection at anytime. Simply mail us the additional material and we will do the rest.

In addition, include a detailed bequest to the Lesbian Herstory Archives in your will. If you make such a bequest regarding your papers, photos, etc., it will be less likely that uncaring or hostile relatives will lose or destroy your papers. Ensure that your will is legally binding by consulting a lawyer.

Offering your collection to the Lesbian Herstory Archives is offering a reflection of yourself to your community. Lesbians and others who seek to know us by exploring your life are eager to read your words, know your thoughts, and view your images. Placing your collection in the Archives is a courageous and generous act. Thanks to you and others who have offered collections to the Archives, lesbian herstory will live as a life-giving force for generations to come. We thank you for your generosity, in memory of the voices we have lost.

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