The Archives of Sexuality & Gender | Reference eReviews, September 15, 2016

With a combination of grassroots, local, national, and international full-text primary source content, this archive is recommended to academic libraries serving scholarly researchers


The Archives of Sexuality & Gender: LGBTQ History and Culture Since 1940, Part I

Gale Cengage Learning; Free trial available

By Cheryl LaGuardia

content The Archives of Sexuality & Gender (ASG): LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, Part I is a collection of approximately 1.5 million pages of fully searchable, primary-source materials, including archival documents, newsletters, organization papers, government documents, pamphlets, letters, manuscripts, memoranda, newspapers, petitions, and other items of interest to researchers of LGBTQ history and culture and/or gender studies.

Material comes from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society; the Lesbian Herstory Archives; the London School of Economics and Political Science Library; and a variety of international sources such as local and national governments, pan-national and self-determined NGOs, and LGBTQ charities.

The archive is organized into 19 collections, including International Gay and Lesbian Periodicals and Newsletters; Gay and Lesbian Politics and Social Activism: Selected Newsletters and Periodicals; Gay and Lesbian Community, Support, and Spirit: Selected Newsletters and Periodicals; and International Governmental and Non-Governmental Reports and Policy Studies Related to LGBTQ Issues, Activism, and Health.

The file also offers primary source materials from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, for example the museum’s LGBTQ Newspapers and Periodicals Collection, its archive of feminist newspapers, and its collected papers of the Gay Activists Alliance. Other collections in the resource are devoted to ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power; sexual politics in Britain in the 19th century, and the international scope of AIDS and HIV between 1985 and 1999.

usability The ASG homepage presents a simple search box with a link to an advanced search below. A toolbar at the top of the page provides access to Explore Collections, Term Frequency, and About. Links at the bottom of the page lead to Term Frequency, Save Notes and Tags, and Overview.

A simple search for LGBTQ activist “Lisa Ben” retrieved three results in manuscripts and 18 items in newspapers and periodicals. Among the manuscripts were records of fundraisers; minutes from the administrative files of the Daughters of Bilitis, San Francisco Chapter; and correspondence of the Daughters of Bilitis. Newspaper articles by or mentioning Ben came from the Seta (Finland), the Richmond Pride (VA), the Alabama Forum (Birmingham), the Gaylactic Gayzette (Boston), and the IGLA Bulletin (West Hollywood, CA).

Some results simply mentioned Ben in a photograph, some talked about her publication Vice Versa (the first U.S. lesbian magazine, which launched in 1947), and some included her own work (a feature entitled, “Herstory,” for instance). The variety of publications included is impressive, especially the newspaper from Finland.

A number of advanced searches were attempted for “boycott” (using a wildcard *) along with prominent figures such as Edmund White, Gloria Steinem, Harvey Milk, and other names as subject searches. None of these search terms received any results. When simple searches for the same terms and people were performed, many results displayed. For this reason, students and researchers should consider using the simple search box for most of their inquiries.

The Term Frequency feature is intriguing. It allows users to graph a word or phrase by content type over a period of years, ranging from 1902 to 2016. The system will chart a specific word or phrase according to frequency of use (the number of documents in which it appears in a year) or by popularity: the percent of the total documents in which it appears in a year. The frequency graph for radical feminist showed the term’s use within documents in the archive peaked in 1982 and flatlined to one result in 2006.

When AIDS was frequency graphed, I discovered that its use among the documents in the archive peaked in 1990 at 8,882 uses; by 2013, the term appeared in only 13 documents. When selecting a specific year on the graph, users are taken to a list of documents in which the term appeared in that year. This is a powerful feature.

A closer look at the LGBTQ Newspapers and Periodicals Collection from the Lesbian Herstory Archives found the May 1971 issue of the Effeminist: Notes for Gay Males in the Feminist Revolution, a newspaper published in Berkeley, CA. Reading articles from this newspaper provided solid insight into Berkeley in the 1970s, with the price of the paper summing up its stance: “10 cents to women, children, old men, Third World, and gay men—25 cents to known white, straight males.” Continuing the theme, articles include “Androgyny and Male Supremacy,” “Don’t Call Me Brother!” and “Feminism Lives.”

The International Governmental and Non-Governmental Reports and Policy Studies Related to LGBTQ Issues, Activism and Health collection is where much of the material from outside the United States can be found. As of this writing, it contains 250,000 pages of content in 475 monographs. Included are The Status of Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgendered Persons in Sri Lanka: NGO Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (2011), and Transgender Eurostudy: Legal Survey and Focus on the Transgender Experience of Health Care (2008).

The Explore Collections section answers many questions about the resource. It shows that the major content types are manuscripts, monographs, newspapers, and photographs. There are nearly 80 document types, ranging from court testimony to diaries to transcripts. Among the 27 languages are Arabic and Turkish.

pricing The cost of this resource is based on size of population served or on institutional FTE. The starting or base price for public and academic libraries with MARC records is $5,013, with a small annual hosting fee in addition to that amount.

VERDICT With a combination of grassroots, local, national, and international full-text primary source content, this archive is recommended to academic libraries serving scholarly researchers in LGBTQ and gender studies.

Cheryl LaGuardia is Research Librarian, Widener Library, Harvard University, and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at

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