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Political Notebook: South Bay officials look to establishLGBTQ archive

by Matthew S. Bajko

Supervisor Ken Yeager. Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto <br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
Supervisor Ken Yeager. Photo: Jo-Lynn Otto 






  

With interest in LGBT history having grown in recent years, Santa Clara County officials are looking to establish a local archive that would preserve documents and other material relating to the South Bay's LGBT community.

The San Jose Public Library's California Room, the system's repository for local history, will oversee the South Bay LGBTQ Archive. The history center is housed at the system's central library, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

It would be on par with the San Francisco Public Library's James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at its main branch. The 21-year-old LGBT history archive's holdings include LGBT films, books, and the personal papers of numerous LGBT individuals, with a special focus on northern California.

The San Jose library's LGBTQ archive will focus on Santa Clara County and San Jose in particular, but also accept material related to LGBT history in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, as all three jurisdictions are linked to the LGBT community in the South Bay and Silicon Valley.

"We are really looking forward to it," said Erin Herzog, the California Room's librarian and archivist. "There should be something already and there isn't. We are happy to fill that void."

Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager , the first openly gay member of the board as well as the first openly gay official in the county, having won a local community college board seat in 1992, is spearheading the effort to form the South Bay LGBTQ Archive.

"Unfortunately, we lost a lot of people to AIDS, but as my generation begins to retire, and perhaps move away, I really want to make sure we collect all the materials that are out there," Yeager told the Bay Area Reporter in his first interview about the project. "Because I don't want people to throw it away. It has to go somewhere."

The city library's LGBTQ archive would add to the Ted Sahl Collection of photographs documenting the gay and lesbian community in San Jose and the Bay Area from 1976-2001 overseen by San Jose State University, whose main library is housed with the downtown King Library, located at 150 East San Fernando Street.

Sahl, a straight Campbell resident, donated his trove of 6,000 photos, as well as negatives, to the university after publishing his 2002 book "From Closet to Community: A Quest for Gay and Lesbian Liberation in San Jose & Santa Clara County."

He also gave the university library his background research, recorded interviews, and working drafts for the book as well as his personal papers, awards, and other ephemera. The Sahl collection also has materials related to the San Jose Gay Pride Committee and various LGBT newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and books.

By the end of next year Yeager plans to donate to the California Room his trove of papers and other materials he has stored in his home. It includes the interviews he conducted for his 1999 book "Trailblazers: Profiles of America's Gay and Lesbian Elected Officials."

He also will be donating his personal journals he has kept since high school and boxes of documents related to the South Bay's LGBT political club he co-founded in 1984 known as BAYMEC, which stands for the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee. Yeager also has a wealth of information he collected last year in preparing his series of essays looking back at the successful fight in 1986 to defeat Proposition 64, a statewide ballot initiative that would have effectively quarantined both AIDS patients and anyone diagnosed with HIV.

"I know I was looking for where I wanted to leave all of my records and files when I am termed out," said Yeager, who will step down from the board in 2018. "I wanted to find a place, so I spoke to the librarian at King Library and they were vey excited to be able to house the history of the gay movement in Santa Clara County."

His office recently hired two college interns who will spend this summer helping to design and launch the Santa Clara County LGBTQ Historical Archive Project, starting with Yeager's personal collection. The interns, who will each receive a $6,000 stipend, will work with not only Yeager, but also the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs and King Library staff to coordinate the program.

One intern has already started working on the project a couple of hours a week and will receive an extra $750 to $1,000. The second intern will begin in June.

The interns, said Herzog, will "basically help us do an inventory and an overview of what kinds of materials are out there and who we should be talking to to get us really started."

In the meantime, Yeager is working on a new essay series about the fight in 1979 to pass LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in San Jose and Santa Clara County, and the successful effort by religious groups in 1980 to overturn both laws at the ballot box. He recently put out a request among his constituents for any documents, including copies of the Lambda News newspaper, they may possess relating to that time period.

Lambda News, an LGBT newspaper in the South Bay in those years, extensively covered the local ballot measure fight. (The B.A.R. reprinted in its August 2, 1979 issue a story from the sister publication about the county board's final adoption of the LGBT rights ordinance.) But Yeager has had difficulty finding copies of Lambda News and is hopeful someone has editions of it stored in a basement or attic that could be donated to the library's LGBTQ1` archive.

"I am hoping that the word gets out," he said. "It is very important for overall history. Our history is just as important as any other group."

In conjunction with his research into that political fight, Yeager contacted the county supervisors serving on the board at the time and asked them to come together to recount their experience. This month Yeager and Terry Christensen, the former chair of the Department of Political Science at San Jose State University, will interview four of the five supervisors at the local public access TV station. It is hoped that a special based on the footage, which the county is spending $1,500 to record, will air sometime this summer.

"In the history books today there is no record of gay and lesbian people," noted Yeager, "so for all practically speaking purposes, it is as if we never existed. So we need to change that; we need to preserve our history and tell our history."

Anyone with material they would like to donate can contact Herzog at (408) 808-2136 or email mailto:Erin.Herzog@sjlibrary.org. Those with records or papers related to Measures A and B can contact Yeager's office at (408) 299-5040 or email mailto:supervisor.yeager@bos.sccgov.org.

The Ted Sahl Collection can be accessed online at http://digitalcollections.sjlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/sjsusahl.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on a gay man running for a L.A. state Asssembly seat.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:.

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