Special Collections

LGBTQ+ Collection History


History of a Name and the Collection


In the spring of 1997, meetings under the leadership of Mark Lapping, then provost of the University of Southern Maine led to the creation of what was first named the Gay and Lesbian Archives. Individuals from the University and the general community worked closely together on the early planning and development, with faculty, staff, and students taking major responsibilities. Among the first donations, in 1998, were the records of ACT UP/Maine and ACT UP/Portland, and the papers of William D. Barry and Frances W. Peabody. Other collections soon followed.


Even before the creation of the Sampson Center, USM faculty and staff reached out to community and formed committees around collection policies, mission statement, programming, fundraising, and a Board for the proposed Sampson Center. These committees are the root of the present Collection Advisory Committee.


Later that same year, as an outgrowth of its commitment to diversity, the University of Southern Maine established the Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine. The Center’s mission is to collect material documenting the ongoing histories of diverse communities. Current collections represent the African American, Jewish, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer communities. The Center promotes diversity and civil rights through research, education, and outreach.

A scholar-in-residence was appointed in 2001 to interpret the collection and encourage research based on its holdings. At that time, the name was Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Archives to more accurately reflect its breadth and focus.

When the first professional special collections librarian, Susie R. Bock, took over management of the collection in 1999, she argued that “collection” was the professional archival naming convention, and it was substituted for “archives. Her recommendations became policy in 2002, including changing the name to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Collection. The change in word orderfollowed a pattern set by many libraries and gay-lesbian groups who wanted to combat discrimination against women.

In 2016, Brody Wood joined the Collection Advisory Committee and suggested adding “queer” to the title. The Collection Advisory committee discussed changing the collection name to reflect the contemporary culture and an inclusive attitude. The result is the new name, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ Collection.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ Collection at the University of Southern Maine collects and preserves the history of Maine’s LGBTQ+ communities. We collect the papers of individuals and the records of organizations active in these communities. The collection includes all forms of material culture from printed books, pamphlets, posters, to manuscripts, diaries, to objects, buttons, T-shirts, banners, games, a wide variety of ephemera, to photographs and audiovisual material. Following professional standards, we carefully guard the privacy of individuals involved in the collections.

The LGBTQ+ Collection is arguably the most significant and comprehensive collection of primary materials documenting the history and culture of Maine’s 20-21st century lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. Its Collection Advisory Committee actively seeks new collections and creates programming that educates and empowers Maine.

Reading Room Hours

M/W/Th 1:00pm - 5:00PM