Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives (CLGA) is the largest independent LGTBQ+ archives in the world. Located minutes away from Church-Wellesley Village, it keeps true to its roots by focusing largely on Canadian content. On April 6th, CLGA has agreed to give Let’z a personalized, in-depth tour of their historic building at 34 Isabella St. and even share some of their treasures with us. Curators will be stationed throughout the facility to give us an interactive look behind the important work the CLGA is doing. The tour will be followed by some light refreshments and mingling. We are just so thrilled for this event!
Caitlin, who has been helping us plan this event, is the Development Coordinator of CLGA and has been nothing short of an absolute pleasure to interact with. We had a chance to catch up with her and ask her a few questions about her adventures with CLGA:
Q: CLGA is the largest independent LGBTQ+ archives in the world, so it has to raise money. What has been the most fun/inspiring charitable event you’ve ever put on for CLGA?
A: Our Gala in 2016 was great fun. The theme was the 1990s Electric Circus and we had VJ Monika Deol on hand as our host. Folks came dressed in 1990s fashion and we even had a fashion show. We were able to raise about $65,000, our best fundraiser ever.
Q: How does CLGA get their volunteers and experts?
A: We advertise for volunteers on our website and through our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). We also use Volunteer Toronto. And of course we get a great number of volunteers through word of mouth.
Q: What has your personal experience been like with CLGA?
A: I’m the first full-time fundraiser at the CLGA so I am busy! I’ve been here for just over a year and have found it to be a welcoming place. Everyone is eager to collaborate. There is a great commitment to the work, with some volunteers donating extraordinary numbers of hours each month. The dedication is impressive.
Q: You have access to a lot of material but what, from your perspective, is one of the most interesting pieces of LGBTQ+ history held at the archives?
A: One of our recently acquired treasures is the journal of Sidney Hugh Godolphin Osborne, written between 1911 and 1913. Believe it or not, this was sent to us in the mail! It is a fascinating look at life for a gay man in an era that we simply don’t know much about.
Q: There has been a lot of collaboration with the public library as well as Glad Day Bookshop lately. What do you think is going to be next? How is the CLGA going to be reaching the general public?
A: We continue to reach people through social media. We will be continuing to do pop-up exhibits, such as Worn with Pride, which was presented last year during Pride at Montgomery’s Inn. We also have our very popular Pride Walks, in partnership with Heritage Toronto. We’ve expanded from one tour of the Wellesley-Church neighborhood to another in the Yonge-King-Queen Streets area, which was a significant LGBTQ+ space from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
Q: The archives is also a meeting place for a lot of events, celebrations, and meetings. Can you tell me about some of the most memorable events that happened within these walls?
A: The Archives was one of two locations for the Rhubarb Festival, a youth performance event, for two years. We were also one of the stops for Nuit Rose, an all-night art event, for the past 4 years. We also have had our own exhibits. One of the most recent ones was Tape Condition: degraded, an immersive installation and community digitization station that engaged with the CLGA’s collection of more than 3,000 VHS tapes, about one-third of which are porn. From commercially produced movies, to homemade tapes and hand-dubbed compilations, these cassettes are vital records of the archives’ role in preserving and protecting queer desires, sexual subcultures, and the pleasures of collecting.