Safer at Home: Exploring the ONE Archives Collection

Week 2 (April 27, 2020)

In this photograph, Jim Kepner, gay activist and collector, sits at his desk in his Lexington Avenue apartment in Hollywood. At the time of this photograph, he was storing his collection of gay and lesbian materials, then named the Western Gay Archives, in his rented apartment. Kepner was a founding member or board member of numerous gay and lesbian rights organizations, including ONE, Inc., PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), and the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front. His collection is now part of the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.

With the photograph’s long perspective, Kepner is dwarfed in relation to his papers, boxes, and books. His hallway has boxes and papers piled high, and his bookcase is completely full. Until the collection outgrew the space and Kepner moved it to a storefront space and changed its name to the National Gay Archives, Kepner shared his living quarters with these important documents and items. While many of us are spending more time at home than before, this photograph reminds us that we don't share a home only with other humans or animals, but also with the objects and items we collect. The material we surround ourselves with can provide comfort, inspiration, and provocation. While our “at home archive” might not be as extensive as Kepner’s, we all have treasures at home waiting to be rediscovered or revisited. 

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