Indystar reports on a number of projects which are collecting local gay history for future availability. One of the collections documenting gay life is that of Michael Bohr, who began collecting artifacts two decades ago after the death of an acquaintance whose numerous photos of gay events from the 1970s — picnics, parties, meetings — were tossed into the trash by the dead man’s disapproving parents.
Bohr started gathering material in 1995 and now has 8,000 items, such as photos, videos of drag shows, hundreds of T-shirts from gay festivals and out-of-print gay publications, including a 1966 copy of what is believed to be Indianapolis’ earliest gay journal, “The Screamer.”
Bohr’s collection, named the Chris Gonzales Library & Archives after an activist who died of AIDS in 1994, is a labor of love and depends on free rent. Today it is housed in the basement of a building at 429 E. Vermont St. where the advocacy group Indy Pride is based. (The collection is open to the public on weekends)….
Two decades ago Bohr… told The Indianapolis Star that the gay community was responsible for preserving their own culture. “No one else is going to keep our history for us,” he said.
Now, that’s no longer true. Recently the historical society approached Bohr about acquiring parts of his archive and keeping it in its secure, state-of-the-art facility. Bohr said no. He worries the pendulum may swing.
“Things are going well for the gay rights movement,” he said, “but history has its ups and downs. The political climate could change suddenly. (The historical society) depends on fundraising and so is susceptible to outside pressure. If the (historic society) had the archive, and the gay material became politically embarrassing, they could say, ‘Let’s bury it in the basement.’ Maybe that’s me being old and cynical, but it’s happened before.”