Founded in 1973, the world’s second-largest repository of LGBT history began as a few boxes of books and news clippings in Ron Dayman’s basement. Dayman, along with other contributors to the groundbreaking queer journal The Body Politic, launched the CLGA—originally called the Gay Liberation Movement Archives—to address the fact that there was basically no collected information on LGBT communities. “A lot of records were destroyed back then,” says Karen Stanworth, a fine arts professor at York University and a CLGA director.
After years of soliciting material from across the country and working in cramped offices, the CLGA opened its Isabella Street location in 2009. Operating as a non-profit, it aims to acquire, preserve, and provide access to material in any medium—be it the diaries of AIDS activist Michael Lynch, or Homocore Hit Parade, a punk-rock compilation produced by Toronto queer zine JDs in 1990. “But we have collections policies,” says volunteer Colin Deinhardt. “We won’t just take any random leather vest or riding crop.”
The building boasts an art gallery too. “Public Sins/Private Desires,” opening June 22, features audio testimonials by older Torontonian lesbians examining their daily lives from 1950 to 1980. “I have young queer students in my courses who say, ‘I don’t have any history because there’s nobody to relate to,’” says Stanworth. “So we’re trying to…fill those archival holes.”
34 Isabella St., 416-777-2755, open Tu., W., Th., 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m