750,000-piece LGBTQ+ history collection donated to Vancouver Archives

Vancouver Courier Staff

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The stories of Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ community are now a permanent part of the city’s archives.

The BC Gay and Lesbian Archives, a collection established and maintained since 1976 by Ron Dutton, an active, long-time member of Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ community, has been donated to the City of Vancouver Archives and is now available to the public.

Ron Dutton Vancouver LGBT
Ron Dutton started the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives in 1976. He recently donated his entire collection to the City of Vancouver Archives. Photo Dan Toulgoet

For more than 40 years Dutton has acquired and described textual records, photographs, periodicals, ephemera and audio-visual material of significant to the LGBTQ2+ community in Vancouver and throughout the province. Over the years, he has provided access to the materials from his West End apartment. Concerned about the future of the BCGLA, Dutton donated the entire collection to the city archives.

“The BC Gay and Lesbian Archives was founded in 1976 to collect, organize, preserve and make publicly accessible the ongoing stories of Vancouver’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirited communities, from earliest historical times to the present,” Dutton said in a press release. “In these 42 years, hundreds of researchers have passed through my home as they examined this ever-expanding collection.”

Dutton said that at more than 750,000 items, he can no longer house the collection.

“I am thrilled that the BCG+L Archives now resides with the City Archives. The Archives has the technical resources and sympathetic staff needed to sensitively manage this collection, ensure its preservation, and position it within the context of the city’s overall history,” he said. “I intend to continue collecting both old and new materials that document my community’s evolution, for deposit at the City Archives.”

The collection consists of:

  • 16.4 metres of subject files
  • 8.6 meters of periodicals
  • 2,000+ posters
  • 7,500+ photographs
  • 220+ moving image recordings
  • 60+ sound recordings

The content of the collection includes video documentation of charity drag balls; extensive photo documentation of the Pride Festival from 1981 to 2009; textual, photographic and video materials related to HIV/AIDS activism; and, subject files pertaining to a wide range of topics including art, immigration, censorship, gender identity, hate crimes, health services, religion, sports and youth activism.

“We are honoured that Ron has chosen the City Archives as the permanent home for his collection,” said Heather Gordon, city archivist. “Not only does the collection reflect the diversity within the LGBTQ2+ community and its evolution over the past 40 years, it documents a community whose lives and activities have historically been underrepresented in archival holdings.”

All 2,181 subject files are now available and can be viewed in the archives’ Reading Room. Periodicals are being processed and will be available by the fall.

Earlier this year, Postmedia donated more than two million photographs from the Vancouver Sun and Province from the 1940s to 1995 to the city archives, the largest single donation in the city’s history.