Publications and Research

Document Type

Book Chapter or Section

Publication Date



This article traces the founding of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in the context of radical archiving and lesbian institution building. It includes an outline of problems presented by "extra-legal" or outlaw material in archival settings. Discussion of the New York Public Library's Becoming Visible exhibit reflects the 1990s growth of mainstream institutional interest in gay, lesbian, and transgender archives, and the complications this interest presents.


Originally published in James V. Carmichael, ed. Daring to Find Our Names. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998. Republished with permission.

Author’s note: Thanks to the women of the Lesbian Herstory Archives - especially Amy Beth, Deborah Edel, Joan Nestle, and Maxine Wolfe - for their comaraderie and significant contributions to this article.

Author's Biography: Polly Thistlethwaite volunteered at the Lesbian Herstory Archives from 1986 until 1996 while employed by day as a librarian at New York University (1986-90) and Hunter College (1990-7). At the time of writing, she lived in Denver, Colorado and worked at the Colorado State University Morgan Library in Fort Collins (1997-2002). Since 2002 she has worked at the Graduate Center Library, City University of New York.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.