Sexual Minorities Archives to Relocate from Northampton to Holyoke

Future home of the Sexual Minorities Archives, Lincoln St., Holyoke, MA
Photo: Sexual Minorities Archives
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Future home of the Sexual Minorities Archives, Lincoln St., Holyoke, MA  Photo: Sexual Minorities Archives

Future home of the Sexual Minorities Archives, Lincoln St., Holyoke, MA
Photo: Sexual Minorities Archives

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—The Sexual Minorities Archives (SMA), a 40-year-old, national collection of LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) literature, history, and art in all media, will begin a move late in 2015 from its longstanding location in Northampton to a larger house in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The SMA collections, open to the public, researchers, and visitors at no charge, have been housed for 32 years in the Northampton residence of Ben Power Alwin, founder and executive director of the Sexual Minorities Educational Foundation, Inc. (SMEF) and curator of the Sexual Minorities Archives. SMEF, Inc. the federal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that furthers the work of the SMA, will also relocate its offices within the Holyoke house recently purchased by Power Alwin. The SMA welcomes between 300 to 500 visitors each year, many of them students and professors from the Five Colleges area, and offers paid student internships and other employment opportunities for LGBTQI individuals through grants and scholarship programs. The SMA also created and offers to the public a LGBTQI History Walking Tour of Northampton and is developing a similar walking tour of Amherst and the UMass Amherst campus.

After successfully raising $15,000 in three months from the LGBTQI and allies communities for closing costs through online crowd-funding, Power Alwin qualified for a mortgage through economic justice organization NACA (www.naca.com) and was able to secure a new home for the Sexual Minorities Archives. [pullquote]After successfully raising $15,000 in three months from the LGBTQI and allies communities for closing costs through online crowd-funding, Power Alwin qualified for a mortgage through economic justice organization NACA (www.naca.com) and was able to secure a new home for the Sexual Minorities Archives.[/pullquote]

Mr. Alwin, a 65-year-old, medically disabled, transgender man, is battling a no-fault eviction of himself and the SMA and has filed a counter-claims lawsuit after the owner of the current Archives House in Northampton refused to sell the property to him. The eviction and lawsuit may go to trial in housing court late this summer.

The Sexual Minorities Archives will bring to Holyoke its vast holdings of books, periodicals, subject files, art, music, textiles, and multimedia comprising the diverse story of LGBTQI lives and experiences from the early 1800s to the present. The SMA has recently acquired, among hundreds of new items, The Leslie Feinberg Library and plans to provide access to those assembled 1,000 books within the Holyoke house in a room it will name The Sylvia Rivera Room. The addition of the personal research library of Feinberg, the late transgender author and activist, will bring the total number of books in the SMA to over 12,000. [pullquote]The SMA has recently acquired, among hundreds of new items, The Leslie Feinberg Library and plans to provide access to those assembled 1,000 books within the Holyoke house in a room it will name The Sylvia Rivera Room. [/pullquote]

“With great struggle, we were able to transform a difficult situation in Northampton into growth for the SMA in Holyoke,” said Power Alwin. “The house that the community so generously helped me to purchase will provide much-needed room for display and expansion of the SMA collections and greater access to the public, as it is located directly on a PVTA bus route and we plan to have open hours there. We are sad to leave Northampton after decades of being part of the city, but we were both pushed out of our current home and priced out of any future home here.”

The SMA will remain open in Northampton to visitors, researchers, interns, and volunteer workers this year as it prepares to move. Power Alwin and the SMEF board will organize community members who would like to help with packing, moving, and setting up in the new location. To volunteer to help, for more information or to schedule a visit, like the “Sexual Minorities Archives” Facebook page and read updates there, follow the organization on Twitter @SMA_NoHo or send an e-mail to sexualminorities.archives@yahoo.com.

[From a News Release]