In the Beginning
Jess Jessop incorporated Lesbian and Gay Archives of San Diego (later Lesbian and Gay Historical Society of San Diego, now Lambda Archives of San Diego) in 1987, starting the collection with materials that he and Doug Moore had gathered earlier. Lambda Archives of San Diego is now one of the best-maintained collections of LGBTQ+ history in the country, It houses the Fritz Klein Bisexual Archives and a tremendous Pride collection.
Lambda Archives of San Diego (LASD) is nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The Board holds regular monthly meetings open to all members. Call (619) 260-1522 to confirm meeting dates and times.
The mission of the Lambda Archives of San Diego is to collect, preserve, and share the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in San Diego, Northern Baja California and Imperial County region. Although most of the collections date to post-1970, there are original materials dating back to the 1930s. History is best reflected in the records and cultural artifacts of those people who are directly involved in its events. Lambda Archives is dedicated to preserving and interpreting this important historical material and making it available for learning.
Lambda Archives of San Diego views all aspects of LGBTQ+ life as important to the understanding of our communities’ values, interests and issues. To this end, LASD actively seeks to acquire and preserve materials that reflect the diversity of our communities in respect to: gender and sexual identity; racial and ethnic identity; age; and the broad range of our communities’ activities and concerns including politics and social activism, social groups, support groups, athletics, spiritual groups, arts and culture, business and finance, and general community resources. LASD collects not only material related to the communities’ past history, but documents current events as well (such as a vast new collection of “No on 8” protest signs).
As they are processed, collections are transferred to special acid-free archival file folders and boxes and the Archives’ facility is maintained at low temperature and humidity levels. When necessary, further steps are taken to ensure the long-term survival of the individual items. For any given collection the supply costs for preservation range from around $10 to hundreds of dollars depending on the collection’s size and types of materials. Recently, with the help of a veritable army of student volunteers, we have been able to process a huge amount of new and backlogged material.
Far from a mere storage facility, Lambda Archives Collections are alive with constant usage for the purposes of educating and empowering the local community and providing sources for researchers.
Lambda Archives has a thriving Student Volunteer Program, in collaboration with San Diego State University with more than 60 volunteers this semester alone! Local college students including UCSD and Point Loma Nazarene students are also making increasing use of the materials for research. LASD provides extensive educational displays and exhibits for the San Diego Pride Festival, the San Diego Public Library, local colleges and universities and other community organizations.
Lambda Archives preserves and makes available the tangible record of the community including the personal documentation of individuals who have lived, worked and been active members of our communities, and the organizational records of business, community and service groups that have served our needs and interests. Lambda Archives’ Collections include:
Perhaps most significant are the collections of original and unique records and personal papers of local LGBTQ+ activists, organizations and political campaigns including the records of the first openly gay person to run for public office in San Diego, and the records from campaigns to stop homophobic ballot initiatives, from “No on 6” in 1978 to “No on 8” in 2008. Large collections include the records of Update, Dignity San Diego, and Doug Moore’s records of San Diego Pride.
LASD houses complete or nearly complete runs of virtually all San Diego and Tijuana (and some significant regional or national) LGBTQ+ periodicals, most of which are not available elsewhere and some of which may have not survived outside LASD’s facilities.
Newsletters for more than 40 local LGBTQ+ organizations (AIDS, art, sports, business, women’s Latino, Asian, Native American, religious, service, social, transgender, bisexual, leather and other interests) demonstrate the diversity of the region’s LGBT community.
Ephemera (materials that are produced to be discarded when an event is over) are a valuable and evocative source of information about any time period. LASD’s collections include flyers, announcements, bumper stickers, buttons, calendars, catalogues, flyers, posters, hundreds of t-shirts, and more!
The Audio-Visual collection includes numerous video & tape Interviews, LGBTQ+ music, educational films, and footage of numerous Pride parades.
There is an extensive collection of thousands of photographs and slides.
Photo Digitization Project – A new ongoing collection of digital materials, including more than a thousand emails, plus digital photos, website captures, and other digital records.
The Research Library contains more than 2,000 titles including non-fiction, fiction, biographies, and pulp fiction, which members can now check out!
We depend entirely on members of the public, private foundations, and grant funding for support. Thanks to this ongoing support, more and more of the collection is cataloged and searchable online.
We would like to specifically thank the City of San Diego, County of San Diego, the California Institute of Contemporary Arts (CICA), the Parker Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the California State Library for their generous support of Lambda Archives, its programming and services.