LSE Library has been home to the Hall-Carpenter Archives since 1988. It’s an extensive collection of archives, ephemera and printed material documenting the development of gay activism in the UK since the 1950s. But how did it come to LSE and what does it hold? Curator Dr Gillian Murphy introduces the collection.
“Our memories matter. Past records matter.”
In many ways, the 1970s was a transformational time to be LGBT. The Sexual Offences Act (1967) had not long passed (decriminalising homosexual acts in private between men over 21) and LGBT interest groups were flourishing. One of these, inspired by the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York and first formed in a classroom at LSE, was the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). The GLF encouraged LGBT people to come out of the closet, organising the UK’s very first Pride march in London 1972.
Many other LGBT groups emerged around this time, such as the London Gay Teenage Group, Gay Activists Alliance and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, to name a few. Other groups, which had formed in the 1960s, such as the North-Western Homosexual Law Committee, renamed itself as the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE).
The idea of preserving LGBT history and providing a resource for researchers began in 1976 with the British Sociological Association’s Gay Research Group. First meetings were held at LSE, and you can see from their bulletin the progress they had made; issues they were discussing, and areas of research interest.
Unfortunately, more LGBT openness brought increased homophobia and discrimination. CHE set up a Commission on Discrimination and monitored cases of discrimination against LGBT people in all parts of life. This Commission collected evidence of discrimination in the media, and later began the Gay Monitoring and Archive Project in 1981. The project was sponsored by the National Council of Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty. CHE members sent press cuttings and related material on discrimination to CHE and slowly an archive began to grow.
In order to achieve its goals, the Gay Monitoring and Archive Project needed to become a charity with a name. Suggestions ranged from the Monitoring and Archive Project, Sex Discrimination Archives to the Hall-Carpenter Archives. The latter was chosen.
The Hall-Carpenter Archives became a charity in 1982, named in honour of authors Radclyffe Hall and Edward Carpenter. It received a major grant from the Greater London Council (GLC) and came to be based at the London Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon.
With the end of the GLC in 1986, major funding for the archive dried up. The Hall-Carpenter Archives now had to begin an appeal to find a new home and resources to survive. It was decided to split the collection into three: archives and magazines, press cuttings, and oral histories. In 1988, the archives, ephemera and runs of gay journals and magazines were transferred to LSE Library, and the oral history material was added to the British Library Sound Archive. The collection of now over 300,000 press cuttings became known as the Lesbian and Gay News media Archive (LAGNA) and found its home at the Bishopsgate Institute as part of their LGBTQ+ collection.
The Hall-Carpenter Archives at LSE has continued to grow and evolve over the years as interest in it and awareness of LGBT history has increased. We welcome all who wish to visit and use this unique and historically valuable resource.
Find out more
- Explore the collections through our LGBT highlight page
- Watch Dan Glass talk on the importance of the Hall-Carpenter Archives for LGBT history
- View LSE Library’s YouTube Hall-Carpenter Archives playlist
- Download schools resources: Campaigning for Change: LGBT+ Activism 1970s & 80s
- Browse our Hall-Carpenter Archives Flickr album
- Read Sue Donnelly’s article “Coming out in the archives”
How to access the Hall-Carpenter Archives
Book a visit and order material on our access archives and special collections page.
More on LGBTQ history
Browse our collection of blog posts about LGBTQ history at LSE.
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This article was originally posted on the LSE Library blog.