Leather Archives & Museum
6418 N Greenview Ave.,
Chicago IL, 60626
© 2017 Leather Archives & Museum
The Women’s Leather History Program was conceived by LA&M board members Catherine Gross and Sarah Humble. The program represents LA&M commitment to acquiring, preserving and featuring archival collections, artifacts, oral histories, and other items that represent the experience of all women (straight, gay, bisexual, trans, women of color) in Leather, BDSM, fetish and kink communities.
Donations to the WLHP fund are used for projects related to the collection and exhibition of women’s leather history. Projects funded by the WLHP include bringing in Dr. Alex Warner to curate and create a traveling exhibit to highlight women’s leather history. Drawing on five years of her doctoral dissertation research and experience, Dr. Warner’s first traveling exhibit included panels on leatherwomen’s literature, art and clubs as well as the national titles and awards for leatherwomen.
In 2011, a special exhibit was curated for the LA&M by Dr Warner, entitled A Room of Her Own. From Dr. Warner curator’s statement:
I was excited that we were both literally and figuratively making room for Leatherwomen’s history in the LA&M. It was out of this line of thinking that “A Room of Her Own” emerged, building on Virginia Woolf’s 1929 feminist text that argues for women’s need for space to think and create.
Modeling the exhibit on the living room of a Leatherwoman, I carefully selected pieces from each of the museum’s existing collections that represent the diversity of the women’s Leather community, highlighting a cross-section of Leatherwomen’s social identities (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, etc.) as well as time and geography. Of course, not every woman’s story is represented here, but the goal is that every woman, and, in fact, every person who visits might see themselves reflected in some part of the exhibit, whether it be through pictures, t-shirts, leathers, books, magazines, videos or memorabilia. So, if there is something “missing,” please consider how donating your personal story or archive to the project would help us make our archives and future exhibits more complete…
Welcome to “A Room of Her Own …”
Q: How can I help?
A: You can help the WLHP at the LA&M by donating materials and collections that document life as a woman in the leather/fetish/BDSM/kink communities, donating to the program fund, and by becoming a member of the LA&M!
Q: Does the LA&M conduct oral histories for the WLHP?
A: No. Although the LA&M has always encouraged and welcomed oral histories, LA&M staff and volunteers no longer conduct or commission oral histories, nor is the LA&M responsible for any person claiming to be conducting interviews on behalf of the LA&M or the WLHP.
Individuals have always been welcome to conduct oral histories with the intention of donating them to the LA&M. The LA&M will not accept oral histories without releases from all interview subjects and participants, including the interviewer or facilitator. The release must include contact information for all participants, state the intention to donate the oral histories to the LA&M, and the fact that they may be made publicly accessible at the LA&M or online. All restrictions must be discussed with the LA&M in advance.
Q: Why aren’t the oral histories donated to the LA&M available online?
A: The LA&M is currently working on the infrastructure for a public catalog. Oral histories received without the required release paperwork will not be published online, but will be kept in the LA&M collections and made available to on-site access.
Q: Is the WLHP fund a restricted fund?
A: The WLHP fund is not a restricted fund, however donations to the fund are tracked and earmarked to supplement various project costs related to the program.
Q: What is the LA&M doing to center women’s history?
A: In 2016, the LA&M archivist designed and traveled with an exhibit celebrating the 30th anniversary of International Ms. Leather and the International Ms. Bootblack contest. A new program t-shirt was designed by photographer Janet Ryan and an intern was hired to work on the management and documentation of women’s oral histories at the LA&M.
In 2017, new artifacts were added to the A Room of Her Own exhibit and a limited edition women’s leather history zine was created. A traveling exhibit at International Ms Leather and International Mr Leather featured previously unexhibited documents and images of women from the LA&M collections. Internally, the LA&M continues to be committed to women’s collections.
Q: Does the LA&M have other programs dedicated to intersectionality and the inclusion of underrepresented and marginalized groups?
A: The WLHP was conceived as a way to celebrate and center women in particular in the LA&M’s functions and future. It has evolved from a short term project to a principle of inclusion that guides the LA&M practice and direction. Going forward the LA&M continues to attempt to build and practice inclusivity at all levels, and to prioritize the preservation and exhibition of records of all underrepresented participants in leather, BDSM, fetish and kink communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, trans and non-binary individuals, and other marginalized groups and identities.