Digital Collections Site and Hundreds of Hours of LGBTQ Audio Go Online

Philadelphia, PA, October 31, 2018 -- The John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives at William Way LGBT Community Center is pleased to announce the public unveiling of its Digital Collections site and the release of over 120 hours of digitized audio files from the Tommi Avicolli Mecca cassette tapes on LGBTQ history. Our Digital Collections are made up of selected digitized materials from the Wilcox Archives and will continue to grow as projects are developed and as funding and time allows. Besides the audio files on LGBT history there are also digitized photographs, posters, brochures, and video from the Archives.

The LGBTQ history cassettes were recorded and collected by Philadelphia activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and donated to the Archives in 1990 before Avicolli Mecca moved to San Francisco. The cassettes date from the late 1960s through the 1980s and were imperilled because of their age, format, and historic storage environment. As part of a Council on Library and Information Resources Recordings at Risk grant awarded to the Archives in 2017 they were converted to digital audio files by the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts. They have since been cataloged and uploaded to the Archives' new Digital Collections site.

"As numerous studies have shown, collections of magnetic tape around the country are in dire conditions," says John Anderies, Director of the Archives at William Way. "Studies from the Image Permanence Institute suggest that magnetic tape may have a total lifespan of between 10 and 30 years, while the Library of Congress and others have suggested there are only 15 to 20 years left" to save the nation's magnetic tape collections. "We know that the medium itself is deteriorating through natural aging and that the format is well on its way to obsolescence, with playback equipment that will not cause further harm becoming increasingly difficult to come by."

The Archives hopes that this digitizing project will contribute to teaching, scholarship, and public discussion about national, regional, and local LGBT history, politics, and culture from the 1950s to the 1980s. The tapes include rare interviews with and recordings of recognized leaders in the national LGBT movement, including Barbara Gittings, Virginia Prince, and Frank Kameny. They also include valuable recordings of nationally-recognized names such as Bayard Rustin, Flo Kennedy and Allen Ginsberg. There are recordings that will be of great value to historians and other scholars interested in LGBT elected officials, as well as lesbian and gay activists, writers, and journalists. The gay artists, musicians, and performers who are featured include Miguel Pinero, Tom Wilson Weinberg, and Blackberri. There are also recording of some of the country’s leading LGBT studies archivists, historians, librarians, and scholars of the 1970s and 1980s, including Allan Berube, Joan Nestle, Jonathan Ned Katz, John D’Emilio, and Esther Newton.

Anderies states that one of the great strengths of this collection is the diversity of the individuals whose stories are captured—the materials include significant content related to people of color, transgender people, and women. The topics covered are diverse as well, ranging across activism, politics, arts, culture, psychology, health, AIDS, family, parenting, reproduction, youth, religion, and spirituality.

The William Way LGBT Community Center encourages, supports, and advocates for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the Greater Philadelphia region through service, recreational, educational, and cultural programming.

For more information please contact

John Anderies