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Cornell University Libraries establish Human Sexuality Collection

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago

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In 1988, two Cornell University alumni, David Goodstein (publisher of the gay and lesbian magazine The Advocate) and Bruce Voeller of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force jointly proposed to Cornell University Libraries the founding of a specialized research library whose focus would be on the complexity of human sexuality. Both men donated both funds and materials which would become the early nucleus of the collection. A group of scholars was formed into an advisory committee to guide the Human Sexuality Collection's work.

It was decided that the Collection's two main areas of collecting would be pornographic materials and materials by and about gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual people, primarily but not exclusively in the United States.

The only collection of its type in the United States and one of the only collections of its size and scope anywhere in the world. Materials in the collection record attitudes towards sexuality as early as the early 19th century and continue right up to the present day. The goal is to encourage the study of sexuality and sexual politics by preserving primary source documents, including both archival and manuscript materials, pamphlets, multimedia, and published works, particularly those produced by or about groups traditionally excluded from mainstream society. Since its founding, the Collection has been the recipient of many gifts of archival materials from prominent individuals and organizations at the center of controversies on sexual politics. Materials in the collection range from 1950's and 60's "pulp" novels dealing with "deviant" sexuality to the personal papers of James M. Foster, an activist for gay rights and, in 1972, the first gay delegate to address the national convention of a major American political party. One current mission is to collect materials that record the controversy surrounding gay marriage.

The mission statement of the Human Sexuality Collection is that "Our ultimate goal is to encourage research on the many important and compelling topics related to sexuality. By acquiring, preserving, and making accessible these primary sources, we hope to have some impact on what people are able to know and think about human sexuality."

The collection is currently kept in the Kroch Library (pronounced "croc" ;-) stacks along with the University's Rare and Manuscript Collections and the East Asian Collections. Due to the fact that space is at a premium at Cornell, which occupies a series of hilltops overlooking Lake Cayuga, the Kroch Library is among the world's only entirely underground libraries: Access is at ground level and the stacks are reached by descending four levels down. Materials from the Human Sexuality Collection are in closed stacks but can be examined in the closed reading room by anyone with a Cornell University ID.


Source: Human Sexuality Collection, Cornell University Libraries



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