Tenured Radical, Live from the Cornell Sex Archive

February 16, 2014, 10:00 am


If that headline doesn’t grab your attention, what will?

The Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, reminding some of us that the history of sex has emerged as a field within our own lifetimes. The curator of the HSC, Head of Research Services Brenda Marston, has been leading out a celebration that includes Speaking of Sex, an exhibit at Cornell’s Carl A. Kroch Library, that opened last Friday February 14 and will be up until October 11, 2014. There is also a speaker’s series that kicks off with a reading by Jewelle Gomez at 4:30 on March 12 in Lewis Auditorium (Goldman Smith Hall).Part of an archivist’s work is to find ways to promote the use of a collection as well, and that involves explaining to a scholarly and a non-scholarly audience why these objects, papers, audio, and images are important. Marston had the wonderful idea of asking some of us who had come to do research in the collection this fall to wish it a happy birthday by reflecting on the collection, and discussing what our work at Cornell had contributed to our own research. Those videos are now posted, and without further ado, and I have re-posted mine below for your entertainment, and linked several others. In the first, I discuss the importance of one folder in a vast collection, the papers of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. In the second, I contribute a word to the exhibit and explain why it is important. Finally, Marston asks me for further thoughts about the history of sexuality, and I talk about why clothing matters to the history of gender politics in the United States.

Marston: What did you find in the Human Sexuality Collection?

Marston: What word should be included in this exhibit?

Marston: What else do you want to say about the Human Sexuality Collection?

These are posted on YouTube, along with contributions by writer, expert and co-founder of on our backs Susie Bright (her word? Unrepentant), who had come to Cornell to help process her own collection;  and K.J. Rawson, Assistant Professor of English at College of the Holy Cross, who returned  to confirm a memory about gender ambiguity and reflects on the word transgender.

Further musing about what I was doing in this archive in the first place can be found at my book blog.

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