The Castro-based GLBT History Museum is reaching out for end-of-the-year, tax-deductible donations because one of the big projects they've got to undertake in the new year is moving their entire, diverse archive of objects, documents, furniture, costumes and more out of the SoMa warehouse it's currently in. As the museums executive director Paul Boneberg explains, "Moving [this entire archive] to a new location is the biggest challenge we've ever faced. But a 50 percent rent increase for our SOMA location gives us no choice."
The museum is unlike a lot of museums in that it houses an archive of personal effects, oral histories, and other objects, some of which was collected by the GLBT Historical Society during the height of the AIDS crisis. As gay San Franciscans died and left behind troves of belongings, there were often treasures specific to gay culture that their families didn't want, and that the Historical Society saw could have worth. As Michael Stabile wrote in this great 2011 piece on the Bold Italic, that archive ranges from the very cool to the very bizarre, including one man's project to collect a hair sample from every man he slept with and label it in a jar a creepy but fascinating art project of sorts.
Elsewhere the archive contains things like Harvey Milk's kitchen table, costumes worn by Sylvester, the 17-foot-tall sign from famed female impersonation club Finocchio's in North Beach dating to 1936, Jose Sarria's "I am a boy" pins (which helped drag queens avoid getting arrested on Halloween in the 1960s), the first issues of the earliest lesbian publication in the America, bathhouse fliers, home movies, and tens of thousands of photos dating to the 1800s.
The four-year-old museum struggles each year to raise funds and balance its books, and moving the archive will obviously be a big challenge.
But if you're able to make a donation now, Boneberg says there's a matching grant of $10,000 waiting to be matched by an anonymous donor to help with this project. And you should, since this is one of the largest archives of its kind in the world, and an incredibly unique one.