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History Collection

Our history collection is separated into 4 sub-categories:

These collections are primarily located on the second and third floors of the SMA.


The SMA houses several different types of audio-visual materials such as VHS tapes, Betamax tapes, 8-tracks, CDs, DVDs, and audio cassette tapes which cover all aspects of LGBTQI life.

The SMA houses an especially rich historical collection of spoken-word audio cassette tapes of lesbian and feminist events, readings, conferences, interviews and oral histories. The spoken-word tapes cover a range of topics, including organizational meetings attended by lesbian and gay activists, as well as events. They range in date from the late 1970s through 2000. There is a wealth of tapes from Chicago, Illinois and Northampton, Massachusetts. In addition, there are tapes from New York City and other cities available to explore. The tapes from Northampton cover local meetings and events. A number of the events and talks that took place at the Five Colleges (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) are also part of the collection.

The topics documented in the tapes include sexuality, feminism, gender, race, class, lesbian, gay, and women’s history and literature. The tapes also cover topics related to transgender experience, ranging from oral interviews with trans-identified people, as well as talks about transgender history. There is a core collection of recorded meetings documenting the organizing response of the lesbian and gay communities in Northampton, during the 1980s in the face of violence, threats, and harassment.


The SMA houses internal papers from LGBTQI organizations and businesses. These papers include meeting minutes, financial records, correspondences, political position papers, posters and fliers for events, and more. The Organizational Collections are materials donated either from or connected to LGBTQI voluntary, for-profit, and not-for-profit groups and organizations, as well from LGBTQI businesses. Many of the Organizational Collections are from Lesbian and Transgender groups, as well as from papers for LGBTQI organizations. They date from the 1970s to the present and are from organizations in Chicago, Illinois, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Amherst, Massachusetts. They include a number of papers from organizations that the Curator of the SMA, Ben Power Alwin, was once a part of.

The following Organizational Collections are housed at the SMA:


The SMA houses Personal Collections from individual writers, artists, and activists who donated their materials to our community grassroots archive. These include the personal papers of individuals, such as diaries, letters, notes, manuscript drafts, published and unpublished books, personal correspondences, papers, sketches, memorabilia, and other documents and items. The Personal Collections in the SMA do not only reflect the lives of “famous” LGBTQI people. We seek to preserve and document the lives of all sexual orientation and gender identity minorities in our Personal Collections.

Below is a list of the Personal Collections in the SMA. Click on the name of the individual you wish to learn more about and you will be able to download a finding aid to that collection.

Subject Files

The SMA holds tens of thousands of Subject File materials, divided into subcategories by sexual orientation or gender minority group. Subject File groupings currently include “Bisexuals and…,” “Lesbians and…,” “Gays and…,” “Trans and…,” ”Intersex and …,” and Leather/BDSM and ….” Each section also includes subject files by and about People of Color.

Each subject area and file contains an assortment of papers, including flyers, legal briefs, position papers, and original newspaper clippings, photocopies of newspaper articles, copies of books, event programs, photographs, and more. Subject Files give you a good introduction to, and overview of a topic and point you towards other parts of the SMA’s collections if you want more depth. Materials archived in Subject Files have been gathered from national and international sources. One special grouping within Subject Files documents Northampton, Massachusetts LGBTQI history by year, from 1968 to the present. Please review the guides to the list of Subject File names within each of these sections: