The Gerber/Hart Library and Archive

One of the things I did on my recent trip to Chicago was visit the Gerber/Hart Library and Archive, an LGBTQ+ library/archive near one of Chicago’s gay neighborhoods. It is a community run archive which collects materials from all parts of the Midwest, and is one of the largest archives of Midwest LGBTQ+ culture. I first heard about them because they have a podcast, called Unboxing Queer History, which was recommended to me. It was a fascinating look at some of their collections, interspersed with interviews and oral histories collected by the archive. After listening to the podcast, I was determined to visit the library and see it for myself. One of the archivists, Erin, was kind enough to give me a tour while I was there.

I spent a bit of time browsing the library stacks at first. I was interested to see what sorts of books they had, and they had a wide variety given the small size of the collection. There were plenty of non-fiction, but they also had many fiction, especially YA and children’s books. The library room also had a few displays of archival collections up. Currently they mostly seemed to be about lesbian baseball, but I did snap a picture of this shirt that made me laugh!

A white t-shirt with a woman weilding a whip and wearing an Indiana Jones outfit on it. Lettering says "Lesbiana Jones and the U-Haul of Doom"

I was particularly interested in their collection of vintage erotica, both print and video. It was extensive, and I wish I had more time to look through it and just skim some of the interesting titles! It heavily skewed toward gay men, but there were some lesbian titles in the print section. I’ve recently become interested in vintage queer erotica. I snagged a few titles from the moving sale of our Pride Center, but I want to build up a collection some day. I’ve been a long time reader of current queer erotica, and comparing the differences is a project I’d be interested in pursuing some day! When I have time of course. XD

A large metal mouth with a cloth tongue sticking out hanging on a wall.
This is from an old drag bar in Chicago. I just thought it was fun!

Anyway, if you’re in Chicago, I highly recommend checking out the Gerber/Hart. They’re open to the public most days, and they’ve got a lot of neat stuff. If you’re interested in Midwestern queer history, definitely check out their collection for resources!

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