Cornell’s Archives Welcome Rare Gay-Themed Photographs

14 Sep 2011 4:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Cornell’s Archives Welcome Rare Gay-Themed Photographs
Weintraub Collection Covers Civil War Era to the Present

ITHACA, N.Y. (Sept. 13, 2011) – Cornell University Library’s rich Human Sexuality Collection just got even richer, with the addition of more than 10,000 gay-themed photographs dating back to the 1860s.

The Harry H. Weintraub Collection of Gay-Related Photography and Historical Documentation includes 150 years of photographs, books, magazines, pornography, ephemera and more. The photographs range from formal 19th-century portraits to Hollywood stars’ studio portraits and from 1950s physique photos to candid snapshots.

Weintraub, a New York City labor lawyer who has been amassing the collection for three decades, visited the Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections to make the donation in early August.

“I began this collection in earnest because of the AIDS crisis,” he said. “Men were dying all around me, and their things were being thrown away because their families were embarrassed. So I was intent on trying to preserve not only their histories but that of those who came before.”

As Weintraub amassed more and more photographs, he and his collection became well known, and families would sometimes contact him to donate their gay relatives’ materials. Many of the photographs are deeply personal. He also added steadily to the collection through purchases from dealers all over the country.

“This is an amazing gift to Cornell, with a tremendous historical value, and it enhances our sexuality, visual, and photographic collections in exciting ways,” said Katherine Reagan, Ernest L. Stern curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.

The collection even contains a few Cornell-specific items, including a 1940s photo of a young man posed in the arms of the A.D. White statue on the Arts Quad, and it will assist the teaching and research of many scholars.

“The new collection being donated by Harry Weintraub is a trove of rich and provocative images and related materials. It will provide an invaluable resource to many scholars, especially those of queer life and performance in the 20th century,” said Nicholas Salvato, assistant professor of theater, film and dance at Cornell. “I'm looking forward to bringing my students to see a number of intriguing photographs when I teach ‘Introduction to LGBT Studies’ in the spring.”

Brenda Marston, curator of Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection, said she is “delighted to have such a big boost to the collection’s visual documentation” and looks forward to welcoming the researchers to use it. Noting the role of personal collectors in preserving our cultural heritage, she added, “Mr. Weintraub has made a significant contribution by looking high and low for pictures that show traces of gay history.”

Weintraub noted that the collection “deals with the history of a substantial U.S. population” and belongs in Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection.

“I knew the collection would have a good home here, that it would be well taken care of,” Weintraub said. “We’re a country of diversity, and the documentary record of the different parts of that diversity deserves to be collected and understood.”

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