Guest Author: Jan B.

I wanted to share a letter and story I got from Jan B., the found of MHVTA. I thought her story of finding a permanent home for Felicity’s trans collection was a nice way or marking how the T is slowly becoming part of LGBT history, for the end of pride month 2006.

Hi all.. had a neat experience last week and that was donating Felicity’s library of TG material (all copies of Transvestia, Femme Mirrors, several other periodicals, many books, assorted papers) to the NYC Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center Library & Archive.
This process was the culmination of about 2 years of exploring and asking.
Fri. 6/16/06
Felicity and I met with Rich Wandel, the center librarian. Later I had the opportunity to escort Rich back to the Center to deliver the library in person. Never having been there before, it was a unique experience. The Center seemed to be buzzing with activity on a Fri. afternoon. Getting into NYC was a hassle and a half but I got in and out without a problem. I got to see the library and see how they categorized the various material donated. It is a very professional operation and Rich was very accomodating. He’s interested in building up their current collection of “TG” material and is interested in old as well as more recent material. Being a LGBT center for a large metro city, most of the material collected is “GLB” related so any “TG” material is most appreciated.
The story really goes back 2 years ago when Felicity was only 98 years young. She lives in an older home and we had spoken earlier that she had many vintage publications. She wasn’t too interested to even show them and I, and maybe others, suggested she do something about the material before something happened to her or the house. The event which seemed to change her mind was she had a car accident in ’05 and was in the hospital for an extended stay. We agreed to explore options and I was willing to help. I acted as the custodian and outreach point person while I went back to Felicity to discuss it and figure out what she wanted to do with her collection.
I had lots of question for people about where would they send TG material and/or where would they go to look for vintage reference material. More than 15 suggestions arrived. The early leader was the U. of Michigan library as they seemed to be the favorite for recent donated “TG” collections. This particular library already had most of the material that Felicity had (which fills the trunk of a car) and they said if they received duplicates, they would pass them onto another library. We felt we wanted to give Felicity’s material to some place that didn’t have the material already and would treasure it.
April, ’06:
After we scouted around more, I attended the IFGE Convention in Philly and spoke to many people including TG’s who had donated their material already or were looking to donate reference material. Some people I met were collectors and were willing to pay for specific issues to backfill their collections. One person said the collection would be worth a lot of money. I met Dallas Denny (editor of Transgender Tapestry) who provided a list of various libraries which could house “TG” collections; she also provided her criteria she used to donate her “truckload of material” to the U. of Michigan library. These included the type of library & why they were interested in acquiring the collection, type of archive, their plan if they do acquire the collection, conditions / requirements to review, ease to get access, physical plant, personnel, financial stability).
We decided that we would look to find a library where Felicity was active which was the east coast. The libraries we checked which seemed to be the best choice were William Way Center in Philadelphia, Central Ct. University (Hartford), and the NYC Center. The NYC Center was really where Felicity lived and the folks in our area would be able to visit them if they desired. When I visited the Way Center, they had a very limited selection of “TG” related material but were interested to start up their collection. When we looked at the The Hartford library and the NYC Center, we felt Central Ct. University library was 2nd in our deliberations really because the NYC Center was more local to our area.
It was interesting to see what happened if you put a request out on the web. Friends and sisters provided various contacts. Connecting up with the libraries proved to be a challenge .. some were very responsive and others never responded. It was helpful if there was a website to see the facility or their current collection. Most don’t separate out the “T” from the rest of the “GLB” stuff.
Back to June, ’06:
We believe we made a good choice. Rich Wandel was visiting Vassar to present at a library science group so we took advantage of it so he could meet with Felicity and get her to sign papers donating her library. She also will set up a ‘type of use’ agreement that any of Felicity’s papers containing her “brother’s name”* would not be able to be used until after her death. It was pretty straightforward for Rich, but it was interesting for the casual observer.
This has been an interesting journey and I’m glad this part is done. If anyone has vintage material and you’d like to donate it to a library for posterity, hope this rambling may have helped. I also hope Julie from U. of Michegan and Rich from the NYC library can present next year at the IFGE Convention in Philadelphia. It would be neat to see that happen and might spur donations.
* Her “brother’s name” is crossdresser code for Felicity’s legal male name.