The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive has just moved to London’s Bishopsgate Institute.
In what novelist Sarah Waters called a “civil partnership made in heaven”, LGBT history has just found a new home at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. The East End cultural centre in Spitalfields has been a hub of liberal left-wing thought since the late 1800s; and it’s now taken on the UK’s only independent LGBT archive.
The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive is a compilation of around 200,000 press cuttings, various campaigning materials and other resources that trace the intricacies of LGBT life from the 19th century to the present. Also at the Bishopsgate Library is a collection of 2000 LGBT-relevant books, both fiction and non-fiction.
The LAGNA, originally part of the Hall-Carpenter Archives, was founded by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in the 70s. It was created as part of a drive to document the presence and actions of the gay community as well as gather evidence to inform the gay equality movement. Until recently, the archive was housed on Middlesex University’s Cat Hill campus, which is closing in June this year.
With a glut of documents from the darker days of the gay rights movement – like the Sunday Mirror’s 1963 article, How to Spot a Possible Homo – the LAGNA allows for a fascinating peek at the mainstream media’s perception of homosexuality throughout the decades. Items produced by the gay press are also on display, including full runs of the groundbreaking newspaper Gay News, which was founded in the 70s. A collection of badges, banners and T-shirts from different gay rights movements vividly document the LGBT community’s ongoing struggle for rights and acceptance.
Information on every major, or even minor, event in UK LGBT history can most likely be found amongst the LAGNA’s plethora of documents. The vast, and still growing, collection covers everything from the revolutionary recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee in the late 50s (which argued that homosexuality should no longer be seen as a criminal offence) right up to Todd Grimshaw’s de-closeting on Coronation Street in the 2000s.
The archive is open to visitors every weekday. LAGNA is always on the lookout for donations and volunteers, too – so if you can spare some money or time, why not do your bit to keep the LGBT history books up to date?
For more information, visit lagna.org.uk