Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives

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Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
Abbreviation CLGA
Formation 1973
Type Archive organization based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Legal status active
Purpose advocate and public voice, educator and network
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Region served
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Official language
English, French
Website Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is a non-profit organization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which collects material relating to the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Canada.

The archives were established in 1973 by The Body Politic's editorial collective. Originally named Canadian Gay Liberation Movement Archives, the organization became the Canadian Gay Archives in 1975, and adopted its current name in 1993.

Formerly located on Temperance Street in downtown Toronto, in November 2005 the archives moved to a temporary location at 65 Wellesley St. in the city's Church and Wellesley gay village. Concurrently with the move, the archives launched a capital fundraising campaign to fund another move to their eventual new permanent location at 34 Isabella Street in the same neighbourhood. The permanent building was donated to the archives by the city's Children's Aid Society after that agency began construction on a new building next door. The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives underwent major renovations and re-opened September 26, 2009.[1]


The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives was established in order to “preserve, organize, and give public access to information and materials in any medium, by and about LGBT people, primarily produced in or concerning Canada.”[2] As such, the archives are not limited to traditional printed material, but instead contain many diverse collections.


In addition to traditional printed material, the archives collects artifacts that would normally be considered museum objects; it does this in order to capture specific moments in the history of the lesbian and gay community.[3] This includes:

  • Banners and flags
  • Buttons and pins
  • Leather
  • Matchbooks and matchboxes
  • T-shirts
  • Trophies
  • Uniforms


The archives have acquired numerous original works of art from within the lesbian and gay community. These are primarily paper or canvas works, and the emphasis is historical.[4] Examples include:

Audio Recordings

Containing more than 2000 hours of sound on tapes and over 1300 discs, the archives house LPs, gramophone records, cassettes, and CDs. Much of this material is vocal or instrumental recordings of lesbian and gay performers, but there is also a significant library of taped interviews and radio programs, as well.[5]

Moving Images

Similar to the archives’ audio recordings collection, the moving images collection is likewise large, including more than 600 items, in 8 mm film and 16 mm film, Betamax, VHS, and DVD formats. While there are feature films, documentaries, and erotica housed in the archives, there are also videos shot at lesbian and gay community events.[6] Because of its extensive collection, the archives are often used to provide source material for Canadian film projects, such as Forbidden Love.[7]

National Portrait Collection

Established in 1998, the National Portrait Collection honours individuals who have contributed to the growth and development of the LGBT community in Canada. Currently, the collection holds 70 portraits in various mediums, which include photography, watercolour, and oil.[8]

As of 2013, people depicted in the portrait collection include Elmer Bagares, Chris Bearchall, Rick Bébout, Anne Bishop, Persimmon Blackbridge, Nicole Brossard, Alec Butler, Bernard Courte, Harold Desmarais, C.M. Donald, Michelle Douglas, John Duggan, Sara Ellen Dunlop, Jim Egan, Gloria Eshkibok, Lynne Fernie, John Fisher, Janine Fuller, Richard Fung, Amy Gottlieb, John Greyson, Brent Hawkes, Gens Hellquist, Tomson Highway, Charlie Hill, George Hislop, Richard Hudler, David Kelley, Robert Laliberté, k.d. lang, Denis Leblanc, John Alan Lee, Bev Lepischak, Alan Li, Michael Lynch, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Jovette Marchessault, Tim McCaskill, Mary Meigs, Billy Merasty, Robin Metcalfe, Peter Millard, Bonte Minnema, Jearld Moldenhauer, Shani Mootoo, Alex Munter, Pat Murphy, Glen Murray, Nancy Nicol, Richard North, Keith Norton, Carmen Paquette, Carole Pope, Ken Popert, Kyle Rae, Rupert Raj, Neil Richards, Marie Robertson, Svend Robinson, Gerry Rogers, Jane Rule, Craig Russell, Kyle Scanlon, Shyam Selvadurai, Makeda Silvera, Mary-Woo Sims, Tim Stevenson, Douglas Stewart, Barbara Thornborrow, Shelley Tremain, Susan Ursel, Chris Vogel, Delwin Vriend, Tom Warner and Douglas Wilson.


The archives contains the largest collection of lesbian and gay periodicals in the world, with nearly 6000 individual titles.[9] Additionally, the archives also house a general collection of periodicals that were not produced specifically for the lesbian and gay community. Since many titles concerning feminism, the arts, and alternative culture wrote about lesbian and gay issues, these titles can be evidence of changing attitudes in mainstream media.[10]

Personal and Organizational Records

The archives holds the records of Canadian lesbian and gay organizations, as well as the personal records of prominent Canadians active in, or significant to, the lesbian and gay community.[11] This includes


Beginning as the photo files for The Body Politic, the archives grew around the photograph collection, and while many of the items are not yet cataloged due to the high number of entries, the archives currently houses over 7000 individual items in various mediums, including prints, negatives, and halftone reproductions.

In terms of scope, the photographs depict the community in a broad sense; photographs of demonstrations, conferences, social events, performances, and police harassment, as well as photographs of personal, domestic and social lives of lesbians and gay men are contained in the collection.[12]


Predominantly Canadian posters are housed in the archives, but international posters are also accepted. The scope is diverse: film, theatre, concerts, parties, bars, and avant-garde art, within the lesbian and gay community.[13]

Vertical Files

The archives currently holds over 5000 vertical files on people, groups, and events affecting the lesbian and gay community. Unlike most of the archives, the vertical files provide information about an individual or organization, rather than information produced by the individual or organization. The vertical files contain approximately fifty percent Canadian content and fifty percent international content.[14]

See also


  1. "34 Isabella Street Grand Opening". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2010-06-29. 
  2. "About Us". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  3. "Artifacts". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  4. "Artwork". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  5. "Audio". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  6. "Moving Images". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  7. "Film Makers and the CGA". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. November 1992. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  8. "National Portrait Collection". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  9. "Periodicals". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  10. "General Periodicals". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  11. "Collections". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  12. "Photographs". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  13. "Posters". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 
  14. "Vertical files". Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-23. 

External links

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