2 min

SM museum pieces

Don't throw away that old pair of chaps

MR LEATHER. Jay Wagner's swan song. Credit: Xtra files

Leatherwear, toys, advertisements, business records – anything at all related to the leather and fetish lifestyle is being stockpiled in an academic-level archive in Chicago.

“[The] Leather Archives And Museum has gone towards preserving the subculture itself and the history of the subculture, so it’s gone after artifacts, says Trevor Jacques, who hosted a November seminar in Toronto by Joseph Bean, executive director of the collection.

“So what they’re trying to do is get as many pieces of ephemera as possible about the various organizations, and if possible any records from any businesses or organizations and those sorts of things. Particularly if it can be dated.”

The seminar looked at how important the leather fetish scene is to the gay community, and how the museum is preserving that history.

According to Bean, the importance in capturing this history is to preserve it for future generations and to prevent repeating it.

“There is the danger of constantly re-inventing what was well-invented before, instead of moving onward and upward. This is especially true in terms of leather/SM dealings with the outside world,” says Bean in a pamphlet. (Bean was in transit and couldn’t be reached for this story.)

The seminar, Entitled Safer SM 101, and held in Toronto a few times a year, touched on some of the history of SM and leather.

Says Jacques: “Rather than detailing people in the community, we look more from the institutional point of view. What was the flow or family tree within the subculture.”

Almost more importantly, the seminar tracks the resources available all over the world to those interested in the lifestyle.

Jacques says these needs are particular and specialized. “If you wanted a doctor who was prepared to deal with a branding healing properly, what are you going to do? You either have to not take any shit from your doctor, or go to a doctor who’s not going to give you any.”

Everything often happens within the gay community. While “modern SM subculture, organized subculture, is not fundamentally gay… they were more organized than anyone else. Partly because gays were already self organizing.”

Bean is now in Chicago to preside over the archives taking over a new space. Moving from a 2000 square-foot storefront to a 12,000 square-foot former theatre (where coincidentally Quentin Crisp gave his last North American performance last month) there is a lot of work getting everything ready.

Info on the safer sex seminars is at the AIDS Committee Of Toronto at (416) 340-2437 or at

The Leather Archives And Museum is at (773) 761-9200.