Get Lost in The Archives of Sexuality and Gender

By Mia Bruner, Librarian III, Instruction and Outreach
June 24, 2022
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

The Archives of Sexuality and Gender, accessible with an active NYPL library card, is a gateway for exploring archives of queer communities and LGBTQIA2S+ history since 1940. Researchers can peruse a kaleidoscopic array of rare materials from 51 archival collections including correspondence, zines and newsletters, photographs, subject files, government documents, and records from community organizations.

Flyer for poetry reading in 1977 hosted by Jamima, a black lesbian writers workshop
African Ancestral Lesbians: Writers and Writing Jemina, NY, February 22-August 28, 1977 and undated. February 22-August 28, 1977; n.d. MS Folder No.: 00540, Lesbian Herstory Archives: Subject Files: Part 1: Abortion-Bookstores. Lesbian Herstory Archives. Archives of Sexuality and Gender (accessed June 23, 2022).


One highlight of this database is its unparalleled collection of newsletters, newspapers, and periodicals by and for queer communities. The LGBTQ Newspapers and Periodicals Collection from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, for example, includes everything from radical handmade zines to established gay and lesbian news sources. These materials are a goldmine for researchers interested in the role of print media in LGBTQIA2S+ history: creating and fostering community, disseminating local news, and sharing organizing strategies. 

The Archives of Sexuality and Gender also contains organizational records documenting national and local struggles for queer rights, recognition, and safety. These first-hand perspectives are especially valuable as they tend to be missing from dominant historical narratives created outside LGBTQIA2S+ communities. Of particular note are the collections from The New York Public Library on the Mattachine Society—one of the earliest gay rights organizations—as well as the Gay Activists Alliance—founded after 1969’s Stonewall riots—and ACT UP—established in 1987 in response to the AIDS crisis. 

While the range and depth of content are not possible to fully cover here, this database makes searching hundreds of archives a breeze. Researchers looking for a simple place to start can search with keywords or by publication from the home page. Those with complex queries can visit the Advanced Search page to use multiple terms while also filtering by date, format, collection, or source library.

If you get stuck, keep in mind that the Library is here to help. You can make a consultation with a Librarian to discuss advanced search techniques or any other aspect of using this database. Perhaps once you’re finished exploring the wonders in this database, you’ll even plan a visit to the Manuscripts and Archives Division to view these materials in person. Learn more about the Library's archival collections digitized in The Archives of Sexuality and Gender:

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