Arts and Sciences
Leonard Bernstein Collection
A composer of concert music and musical theater scores, a conductor, and a pioneer in the use of television in his role as music educator, Leonard Bernstein (1918-90) was among the most well-known and influential musical figures in the second half of the 20th century. As with most things related to Bernstein, his sexuality was a complicated aspect of his life. Whether or not it influenced his work as a musician is subject to debate, though setting Walt Whitman’s poem, “To What You Said” in Songfest (1977), and featuring a gay character in his opera A Quiet Place (1983), were considered both daring and revealing when they premiered. Often outspoken on political and social issues, Bernstein used his professional influence and passion to co-produce a benefit concert for the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the first Music for Life AIDS benefit (1987). In 1989, Bernstein declined a presidential medal of honor as a protest at the National Endowment of the Arts rescinding a grant for a gay-oriented AIDS art exhibit; and in 1990 he wrote the foreword to the book, The Vinyl Closet: Gays in the Music World. All considered brave actions at the time.
The Leonard Bernstein Collection in the Music Division of the Library is vast and varied. It is also a rich source for research in gay history. In 2011 the estate donated several hundred (previously sealed) letters to add to the Bernstein Collection that reveal many aspects of gay life, particularly during the 1940s – a secretive time when it was personally and professionally dangerous to document or acknowledge homosexuality. In addition to letters from various male lovers and friends, there are letters from therapists who worked with Bernstein as he struggled to face his sexuality, and letters from his wife discussing how they might deal with his homosexuality in their marriage. The collection also contains materials regarding the, then nascent, AIDS epidemic – research, commentaries, and business papers related to Bernstein’s participation in Aids awareness and fundraising events.
Truman Capote Papers
The papers of Truman Capote (1924-1984) span the years 1947-1965 and consist chiefly of literary manuscripts. The collection contains notebooks, journals, drafts, and manuscripts of prose fiction, dramas (including screenplays), and other writings, both published and unpublished. Included are drafts of his novels Other Voices, Other Rooms, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and In Cold Blood, the musical play House of Flowers, the short story "A Christmas Memory," and a profile of Marlon Brando. The largest group of material relates to his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, an account of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas.
Photos from the 2012 San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration, part of the Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project.
America's literary heritage from the past fifty years is displayed in a unique Library of Congress collection called the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature. Begun in 1943, the archive features literary readings by hundreds of poets, authors, dramatists, and actors, including the first woman named poet laureate, Audre Lorde (1934-1992)
Margaret Mead Papers
The Manuscript Reading Room of the Library of Congress maintains the collection of Margaret Mead Papers and the South Pacific Ethnographic Archives, which consists of over 530,000 items of personal, professional, and family papers. The corpus of notes and other field materials that Mead preserved are available to scholars interested in evaluating and building on her research.
Kay Ryan, Former Poet Laureate
Kay Ryan has made extensive contributions to national efforts which promote poetry in the United States. She credits Carol Adair, her late partner of thirty years as a main reason for her enduring the rejections that often accompany the career of a poet. The two met while they were both teaching classes at San Quentin State Prison. The quality of Ryan’s poetry eventually lead to her appointment as a US Poet Laureate. Dr. Billington said that the Laureateship is uniformly awarded for the highest quality of poetry. He stated, "Kay Ryan is a distinctive and original voice within the rich variety of contemporary American poetry. She writes easily understandable short poems on improbable subjects. Within her compact compositions there are many surprises in rhyme and rhythm and in sly wit pointing to subtle wisdom."
Stonewall Book Awards
The first and most enduring award for LGBT books is the Stonewall Book Awards , sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table. Since Isabel Miller's “Patience and Sarah” received the first award in 1971, many other books have been honored for exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience.
Carl Van Vechten Photographs
The Carl Van Vechten Photographs Collection at the Library of Congress consists of 1,395 photographs taken by American photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) between 1932 and 1964. The bulk of the collection consists of portrait photographs of celebrities, including many figures from the Harlem Renaissance. The Prints and Photographs Online Collection (PPOC) includes links to a selected bibliography, a biography and a chronology in addition to his photographs. The collection of Van Vechten Photographs at the Library and his papers at Yale are an important resource to the study of LGBT culture.
- The Thomas B. Harned Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman offers access to the four Walt Whitman Notebooks and a cardboard butterfly, which disappeared from the Library of Congress in 1942. They were returned on February 24, 1995. The Thomas B. Harned collection spans the period 1842 to 1937, with most of the items dated from 1855 to 1892. The collection was donated to the Library of Congress in 1918.
- The Feinberg-Whitman Collection
This collection, purchased by the Library over the last decade with the assistance of anonymous benefactors, probably is the largest and most important group of materials relating to American poet Walt Whitman ever assembled.
Frank Kameny Collection
Banned from federal employment in 1957 solely because he was a gay man, Franklin Edward Kameny became an "angry archivist". Not only did the Harvard Ph.D. astronomer protest his firing from the U.S. Army Map Service, but he also became the central figure in confronting the federal government’s policies against the employment of gays and lesbians, particularly in positions linked to national security. Kameny collected thousands of pages of letters, government correspondence, testimony, photographs and other memorabilia. The Kameny Collection is perhaps the most complete record of the gay-rights movement in America.
- Items from the Frank Kameny Collection [PDF, 42MB]
- Finding Aid for the Collection
- Article – “Activist and Archivist: Library Acquires Papers of Gay-Rights Pioneer”
- Article – “A Moving Moment: Library Makes and Records LGBT History”
Bayard Rustin Papers
Bayard Rustin was an openly gay civil rights activist, social reformer, pacifist, AIDS activist and author. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. The papers of Bayard Rustin were presented to the Library of Congress between 1988 and 1994 as a bequest from Rustin via Walter Naegle, executor of Rustin's estate and his partner from 1977 until Rustin's death in 1987.
- Finding Aid for Bayard Rustin Papers
- The Bayard Rustin Papers
- LC Civil Rights Resource Guide (includes link to Bayard Rustin film)
Lilli Vincenz Papers
Gay rights activist, psychotherapist, and documentary film maker. Correspondence, journals, organizational files, speeches, writings, surveys and questionnaires, press clippings, printed matter, academic files, and other papers relating to Lilli Vincenz's life as a gay civil rights activist, her work to support and empower lesbians and gay men, and her documentation of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement.
Databases and Resources
LGBT Dissertations in Library of Congress Collections
The Library of Congress makes copies of dissertations available to the public onsite to researchers. The Library of Congress is the only institution in the country to purchase microform or electronic versions of all doctoral dissertations filmed by University Microfilms, which means most U.S. dissertations. Complete dissertations since the 1940s are available on film or fiche in the Microform Reading Room and, since 1997, in full text on computer terminals at the Library. Doctoral theses contain in-depth research on an enormous variety of subjects; all have bibliographies and notes to lead to other sources.
Here is a sampling of dissertations regarding LGBT topics available via the ProQuest database:
- Piracy, globalization and marginal identities: Navigating gender and nationality in contemporary Hispanic fiction by Reid, Alana B., Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2009 , 252 pages; AAT 3382332
- Demographic differences in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth's participation in school-based gay-straight alliances in the United States by Diaz, Elizabeth Maria, M.A., The George Washington University, 2010 , 43 pages; AAT 1473553
- "I will rock some glitter like you've never seen": Burlesque, femme organizations, and the cultural politics of the femme movement by Ryan, Maura, Ph.D., University of Florida, 2009 , 294 pages; AAT 3401478
- The long-term care decision making of older lesbians: A narrative analysis by Gabrielson, Marcena Lynn, Ph.D., The University of Iowa, 2009 , 135 pages; AAT 3356213
- The religious experience of sexual minority youth: Identity, integration, and minority stress by Dahl, Angie LoAnn, Ed.S., Utah State University, 2009 , 158 pages; AAT 3369971
- Workplace climate, job stress, and burnout among gay men by Androsiglio, Ryan James, Ph.D., Fordham University, 2009 , 119 pages; AAT 3361347
LGBT Life Database
The LGBT Life Database is available to researchers in the reading rooms of the Library of Congress. LGBT Life Database contains the full text of more than 120 of the most important and historically significant LGBT journals, magazines and regional newspapers, as well as more than 140 full-text monographs/books. These include “Classics in Lesbian Studies,” “Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research,” “Handbook of Research with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Populations,” “Queer Theory & Social Change” and others.
Prints and Photographs Collections
The collections of the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress include photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people. Researchers may browse lists of relevant subject terms such as Gay pride and Gay Rights, or search broadly across all collections/categories using a general keywords directly in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. The catalog provides access through group or item records to about 95% of the Division's holdings, including more than a million digital images as well as descriptions of material that can be consulted by visiting the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.
Veterans History Project
“Serving in Silence”
Gay members of the Armed Forces have had to live with an extra layer of discretion and professionalism. Here are stories of men and women who served their country while balancing the need to keep their private lives private.
“Breaking the Silence: Our Military Stories”
A panel discussion that focused on such topics as the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal and experiences, the current status of LGBT equality in the U.S. military, Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 as it relates to military families, and the current ban of transgender service members.
A poetry reading by Richard Blanco
D.C. Councilmember David Catania to Keynote Library’s 2010 Celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month
OPM General Counsel Elaine Kaplan to Keynote Library’s Celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month 2009