Without queer history, there is no queer pride!
GALA's archive and research facility was set up to serve the needs of rigorous academic research on LGBTI issues in Africa, while also maintaining a dual role as a repository of community histories and cultural artefacts.
Today, we are the custodian of a large number of individual and organisational archival collections that document the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTI people from many parts of the continent. From secret diaries and steamy love letters, to personal photograph albums and racy home movies; from formal documents of political, community and professional organisations, to oral sources that detail social, political, legal, cultural and religious aspects of LGBTI life; from news clippings and vintage magazines, to frocks, wigs, badges, posters and much more ... you name it, we value it and keep it for posterity!
The archival collections are fundamental to our work and to that of many researchers, academics, development professionals, social commentators, policy-makers and interested citizens from around the world. The majority of our collections are paper-based and can only be accessed by visiting the GALA offices at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Using the collections
GALA's archive and research facility can be accessed for free, and is open to anyone interested in finding out more about LGBTI people in Africa. The facility is open Monday through Friday, from 8.30 am to 5:00 pm.
In order to preserve our holdings, all archival materials are handled and stored with great care. Materials in our archive can only be examined on site at GALA's reading room. A full-time archivist, Linda Chernis, is on hand to discuss your needs and to help you use our finding aids to locate the items you wish to see. The archivist will then bring these items to the reading room for you to view. Visitors are welcome to take notes with pencil and paper, or to use the GALA photocopier (a standard rate is charged for this service).
As some collections are not yet accessible or are stored at an offsite facility, all researchers are required to contact the archivist before visiting GALA. Please include an overview of your research interests and our archivist will advise on the appropriate collections for needs. An appointment will then be scheduled for you to view the requested collections. Researchers are required to provide a valid ID document and complete a registration form before viewing any archival materials.
Searching the collections online
GALA is currently updating our digital Archival Guide to make it easier for researchers to search our collections. This will include the addition of a number of new finding aids. Until this process is complete, those requiring information on the collections will need to contact the archivist.
Contact the archivist
Check out some Pride t-shirts from GALA's T-shirt Collection
Explore our collections
Over the next few months, we will be sharing some of our archival gems through a series of regular posts. These short articles will provide a glimpse into the diverse collections housed at GALA, while also reflecting on their historical significance.
Donate your records
GALA's collections are built by donations from people like you.
Do you have a story to tell? Let us interview you. Or perhaps you would like us to take care of that box of letters you saved not quite knowing why. If you have any materials you feel are relevant to the history of LGBTI people and would like these preserved for future generations, then please contact us.
The GALA archivist will discuss with you any restrictions you may want to place on your collection and will then draw up a formal contract. You decide on the terms: you can stay anonymous, or you can instruct us to keep things under wraps for a few years, or you can limit who can see the materials. The choice remains yours, and we will work to your needs.
Remember, if we don't tell our stories, it's as though they never happened!