The self-proclaimed “sexiest archives in Philadelphia” – the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives at William Way LGBT Community Center – opened its doors on October 26, 2016 for a special behind-the-scenes tour. Items on display from the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s, highlighted examples of early “homophile” publications and emphasized Philadelphia’s critical role in launching modern LGBT activist movements. Perhaps the most-reproduced images from the Archives is a photo from Reminder Day, protests held on July 4th at Independence Hall beginning in 1965, considered one of the earliest LGBT demonstrations in the US.
The Archives’ collections continue to the present day. Among their most unique items is a model of the iconic gay bar Woody’s that doubles as a birdhouse!
The open house night was also an opportunity to view the Center’s new exhibit, “Something’s Brewing: History of the Gay & Lesbian Coffeehouse of Philadelphia.” First opened in 1973, the coffeehouse offered a relaxed alternative to gay bars, where LGBT folks could meet and socialize as well as organize for political activism and community and health service work. In addition to documents and photographs on display, the exhibit also features the opportunity to listen to recently digitized recordings of performances at the Coffeehouse!
Don’t worry if you missed the event on October 26th – there’s still a chance to get in on the fun! The exhibit – which was recently written up in the Philadelphia Inquirer! – will remain on view through January 27th, 2017.