Lesbians in Women’s and Gay History
The Utrecht Lesbian Archive
After months of preparations, discussions and funding applications, a foundation was established in July 1982. The Utrechts Lesbisch Archief (ULA, sometimes also Lesbian Archive Utrecht) focused on everything that was and has been important to lesbians, including books written by lesbian authors with a ‘straight subject’ or books written by men who were historically important to lesbians. The emphasis was placed on sexual theory and secondarily on fiction and poetry. The material included written documents, audio-video recordings of lectures, seminars, lectures and presentations and photo reports of theatrical performances, events and demonstrations.
The archive was first housed in someone’s home and then moved to more spacious accommodation in the Women’s House on Twijnstraat, a busy activity center for women’s organisations. The archive was run by volunteers and depended for its existence on subsidies from the municipality, the province and donations from the archive’s ‘girlfriends’. In addition to collecting and making material available for consultation, the ULA organized events and participated in meetings of the Landelijk Overleg van Lesbische Archieven/ LOLA (National Consultation on Lesbian Archives).
Material were collected in several ways: through the research of the volunteers in antiquarian shops, archives and bookshops; through donations from the friends of the archive and through specific requests for materials in newspapers.
Between 1984 and 1986 the ULA published a newsletter, En Toen (And then), mainly aimed at the friends of the archive. There could be found descriptions of acquisitions, book reviews and descriptions of the difficulties in gaining government funding.
The archive’s location remained a weak point throughout its existence. Although the space in the Women’s House was accessible, it was not ideal. The collective continued to hope to find an independent space that would meet the needs of the archive and its users, with the dream of starting an activity center for lesbians.
Over the years, getting subsidies from the municipality and province became increasingly complicated. In 1983, the municipality of Utrecht decided to stop funding the ULA on a permanent basis. From that day on ULA could only apply for funding of specific activities.
In 1984, the subsidies already granted by the province were stopped after actions by the Provincial Council that did not recognize the emancipation content of a lesbian archive. In both cases, the archive launched protests against the government’s decisions, but with little long-term results. The chronic lack of financial resources remained one of the biggest problems for the archive until the very end.
In 1987 the archive was no longer able to attract volunteers. After consultation with other lesbian archives, it was decided to keep the ULA as a ‘dormant archive’ for a while, until new collaborators decided to join the team. The collection was preserved but there were no activities.
In 1990 the collective decided to close the Utrecht Lesbian Archive. The collection was donated to the Amsterdam Lesbian Archive, which eventually merged with Homodok and became what is now IHLIA LGBTI HERITAGE.
Mieke Aerts en Saskia Grotenhuis, ‘De een is gelukkig de ander niet: over roddel, geschiedenis en andere metaforen’, LOVER, 9 (1982) 3, 99-103.
Joke Auk Dijkstra, ‘Utrechts Lesbisch Archief opgeheven: “Bestaansrecht is er zeker’’ ‘, Nieuwsbrief Lesbisch Archief Amsterdam (1990) 14, 14-16.
Wilma de Hoog, Utrechtse Roze Routes (Nijmegen 1997).
Noah Littel, tentoonstelling catalogus, Het Archief in Ontwikkeling, 22 februari – 01 mei 2021, IHLIA LGBTI Heritage en Atria, kennisinstituut voor emancipatie en vrouwengeschiedenis, Amsterdam.
Maaike Meijer, ‘De roddel van de een is de geschiedenis van de ander’, LOVER 8 (1981) 4, 172-177.
NvdP, ‘Lesbische archieven Nederland’, LOVER 12 (1985) 4, 226-228
Annette van ‘t Sant, ‘Lesbische archieven: hebben is hebben, houden is de kunst’, Sek 15 (1985) 3, 8-9.
Judith Schuyf , ‘Het eekhoorntjeskompleks : lesbische archieven in Nederland’, Homologie 5 (1983) 1, 4-5.
En Toen, Uitgave van Utrechts Lesbisch Archief, 1 (1984) 1.
Tineke Zwijgers, ‘Lesbische vrouwen hebben recht op hun eigen geschiedenis, Pension Parkzicht : maandblad van COC, afdeling Utrecht 2, 1983, 1-4
En toen… (And then…) Newsletter Utrecht Lesbian Archive, poster 1982 (collection Atria, knowledge institute for emancipation and women’s history)
Poster for fundraiser Utrecht Lesbian Archive 1982 (collection Atria, knowledge institute for emancipation and women’s history)
Front page of magazine Pension Parkzicht (guest house park view), with article about the Utrecht Lesbian Archive, February 1983. (collection The Utrecht Archive)
‘The Utrecht Lesbian Archive is looking for’, call for new employees, 1986 (collection Atria, knowledge institute for emancipation and women’s history)
View of the facade of the building Twijnstraat 69, the Women’s House, in Utrecht, 1987. (collection photo service GAU, photographer The Utrecht Archive)