I adore the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. They’ve begun the immense task of uploading their audio/visual archives and making them available digitally. They’ve uploaded two archives and made them freely available thus far and they are a wonderful resource for students, researchers and anyone interested in GLBT history.

The first of these, GLBT Radio on KSAN-FM San Francisco, consists of the Randy Alfred Collection which features 250 hours of talk shows spanning 1973 to 1984, with an emphasis on politics. San Francisco journalist Randy Alfred hosted The Gay Life on KSAN-FM from 1979 to 1984. In addition to studio interviews with community leaders, politicians, social scientists, civil-rights lawyers, authors, musicians and artists, The Gay Life also presented political meetings, government hearings, annual Pride celebrations and other events of the lesbian and gay community. This collection of studio masters encompasses the run of the series, plus several other KSAN shows from 1973, 1977 and 1978.

The second archive is Gay Radio from KPFA Berkeley. A pioneer effort in gay broadcasting, Fruit Punch debuted in 1973 on KPFA Berkeley. Kevin Burke was a late ’70s producer in the collective who focused on cultural work and theater arts. He preserved not only his own programs, but many other Fruit Punch shows and production elements as well.

Thus, if you’re interested in the history of bathhouses (as I am) you can search for that term and find some really fascinating recordings. Listening to a discussion about HIV/AIDS and the bathhouses in 1984 from the perspective of 2011 is remarkable – in some respects, the debates and arguments are so familiar, so contemporary and yet, the voices that defend bathhouses have been largely silenced. These voices from the past talking about responding to a crisis in their community, a crisis the nature and extent of which is still emerging, is deeply moving and fascinating. Oodles of other topics are there to listen to – there’s also a great discussion of the ‘new’ film Cruising, and I found myself clapping the comments of Daniel Curzon in his critique of the film but then I also loved hearing Pat Califia (speaking two months before I was born). Her remark about ‘marching like lemons’ still rings true. Wonderful stuff but depressing that too often we lack these fierce angry voices today.

Check out both archives here.

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