LA&M’s Leather History & Collective Memory Discussion over IML Weekend

muir cap

Muir cap that was part of the Randal Sauder collection on display. (photo by Brad Link)

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.

LAM flier

Flier for Leather Fantasy contained in the Randall Sauder collection. (photo by Brad Link)

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.

LAM pics 2

Photos contained in one of the binders that are part of the Randall Sauder collection (photo by Brad Link)

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.

LAM pics 1

Another photo contained in one of the binders of the collection. (photo by Brad Link)

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.