Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Collection from UTSA Libraries provides insight into South Texas’ LGBTQ community

Collection from UTSA Libraries provides insight into South Texas’ LGBTQ community

A couple attends Lesbian Prom from the Lollie Johnson Papers, MS 117.

OCTOBER 19, 2022 — In honor of LGBTQ+ History Month, the UTSA Libraries Special Collections is showcasing its LGBTQ collections. The selection contains numerous rare and important materials representing local activists, artists and organizations exemplifying San Antonio’s queer histories and cultures.

As the keeper of unique research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas, Special Collections is working to fill a gap in the historical record and challenge scholars, researchers and students to incorporate their findings into the city’s historical narrative thereby providing a more complete picture of the rich tapestry of cultures that are foundational to the evolution of San Antonio.

“Individual queer histories have often ended up in a dumpster, trash can or incinerator. In recent years, queer organizations and individuals have recognized the value of their records and papers and have sought out homes where their materials could be preserved and accessed,” said Melissa Gohlke, UTSA Special Collections assistant archivist and LGBTQ+ subject matter expert.

“Miraculously, some materials from private collections surface occasionally in antique stores, estate sales and online. Often small in scope, the materials offer glimpses into the personal lives of gay men and women in San Antonio and South Texas,” Gohlke added.


“The strength of this collection is its rich array of primary resources that offers an important look into the history of the LGBTQ community in San Antonio.”



UTSA’s LGBTQ collection is available and accessible to students, faculty, researchers and the community at large. These materials bring to light the many ways of living, working and being on the gender and sexuality spectrums. 

“The strength of this collection is its rich array of primary resources that offers an important look into the history of the LGBTQ community in San Antonio,” Amy Rushing, assistant vice provost for Special Collections said. “This community traditionally has been underrepresented in the historical record and our goal is to ensure it is documented, preserved and made accessible.”

LGBTQ+ History Month was founded in 1994 by a high school teacher in Missouri to recognize and commemorate the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to the cultural evolution.

As part of its work to highlight the books, articles, artworks and other projects that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, UTSA Special Collections staff participate in special events and have curated numerous community exhibits that highlight UTSA’s LGBTQ collection. One of the more notable examples of this work is the TransAmerica/n exhibition that the McNay Art Museum hosted in 2019. The event brought in local and regional artists and displays of world-famous works, such as those of Andy Warhol.

“During this exhibition, Special Collections had the opportunity of curating a gallery exhibit filled with materials from our LGBTQ collections,” Gohlke said. “Our display emphasized those that represented transgender lives, stories and expression. 

Among the collections donated to Special Collections from the LGBTQ+ community:

  • The Linda and Cynthia Phillips Papers: Linda and Cynthia Phillips were a very prominent couple within the transgender community in Central and South Texas. They created the San Antonio chapter of the Boulton and Park Society. The bulk of the collection has been digitized and can be accessed online through the Guide to the Linda and Cynthia Phillips Papers. The materials are also available through the Digital Transgender Archive (DTA).

  • LGBTQ Publications: Materials in the collection include queer publications from San Antonio and South Texas and span the decades from the 1970s through the early 2000s. Donations for this collection came from Gene Brake, Gene Elder at the Happy Foundation and Ted Switzer. Many of the items are digitized and available online at UTSA Special Collections LGBTQ Publications digital portal.

  • The Lollie Johnson Papers: Lollie Johnson was a successful local business entrepreneur and activist who owned nine bars that served the LGBTQ community from the 1970s through the 1990s. The collection is rich in photographs that convey life in lesbian and gay bars over three decades. For more information, consult the online guide, Lollie Johnson Papers.

EXPLORE FURTHER

  • The Sterling Houston Papers: Document Sterling Houston’s involvement in the San Antonio theater community through scripts, screenplays, programs and press materials of his theatrical works. Additionally, the collection contains documents relating to Houston’s many community and theatrical projects including the Jump Start Production Company. Digitized items can be accessed through the online guide, Sterling Houston Papers.
  • The Gene Elder Papers: Materials document Gene Elder’s work as an artist, activist and writer. Twenty-three journals were created between the years 1970 and 1995, with a few materials added shortly before Elder’s passing in 2019. More information is available via the online guide Gene Elder Papers.

Melissa Gohlke



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