CHICAGO – There were many amazing things to see and do over International Mr. Leather Weekend, but one of the things I felt was a must for me was attending the Leather History and Collective Memory discussion presented by the Leather Archives & Museum. The focus was on the role of the LA&M’s archives, records, & material culture in documenting (and forgetting) Leather history.
As I listened to LA&M’s Archivist Jakob Van Lammeren discuss the archive I couldn’t help but want to do more to preserve our Leather heritage. I listened intently as Jakob described a collection that came in and how the archiving process works. The process its self is very tedious yet sexual as the archivist is viewing and sometimes handling items that have a sexual energy to them left over from their previous owner. Jakob discussed how everyone who then views these items and reads their story in essence is taking part in a sexual act with their original owners. This kind of thing happens every day at the Leather Archive & Museum and that makes me think that volunteering at LA&M wouldn’t only be giving back to our community, but really hot!
Since I just brought up volunteering, lets discuss what it takes for the LA&M to provide the service they do for our community. LA&M provides their operating budget on their webpage for those in the community to view. If you look at this budget you will see that it costs LA&M $180,826 in expenses to operate. All of that money is provided through Memberships & Donations, Fundraising, Programs, & International Mr. Leather weekend. In short it is the Leather community that provides the funding to house our history.
For many of us the number $180,826 might be a little large to wrap our heads around, so let’s discuss the costs on a little bit smaller scale. The collection on display during the Leather History and Collective Memory discussion at IML featured a Leather Muir Cap & two binders full of photos, flyers, and patches that were donated to the archive. The cost to preserve these items in acid free binders & boxes, provide a humidity controlled environment to store the items, & the staff hours needed to complete those tasks as well as cross reference this collections with others in the archive is $300. That is almost $100 more than the priciest package offered by IML and only covers archiving this relatively small collection.
Because of the costs to archive and display our Leather heritage we as a community need to support the LA&M financially with memberships and donations, but that isn’t the only thing LA&M needs from us. The collections that are part of the archive are donated by individuals and clubs from around the world & while there are some amazing collections that cover complete histories of clubs or events, there are also incomplete collections that need us as a community to help fill in the gaps.
During the discussion Jakob mentioned that the majority of donations to the LA&M are from White Gay Leather Men and while that demographic is a major part of our Leather history there are many other demographics that have very little archived. Jakob mentioned how the LA&M are reaching out for more from the Trans Leather, Leather Pup, Leather Women, Bootblack, & other demographics of our community. As a community we don’t want to lose any of our history, but the only way the LA&M can preserve it properly is if we donate and share these important items and stories with them. This is the part of the article where I ask you do just that. If you have a unique piece of Leather history in a drawer or closet at home that you are willing to part with to allow others to learn and enjoy it, please donate it to the Leather Archive & Museum. They will take better care of this piece of history than anyone else could & they will make sure that it is never lost.
This discussion at IML reinforced my belief that the Leather Archive & Museum is the custodian of our oh so important Leather History & it is on us as a community to provide them with financial & physical donations that will allow them to tell the most complete story of our past as possible. So please, take the time to visit, become a member, donate an item you feel has historical significance, and share with others the hard work that the Leather Archive & Museum puts forth to preserve our sacred Leather history.
For more info on how the Leather Archive & Museum protects our Leather history take a look at this video or visit the Leather Archive & Museum Webpage. If you are interested in donating historical items to the archives please follow this link. To make a financial donation please visit the donation page.