US porn’s not part of ‘primary focus’

Archives destroyed tapes, but collects Buddies paper

Just over a year after the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives destroyed most of a collection of donated pornographic videotapes, the question as to whether the group breached its mandate remains.

President Edward Tompkins says the decision to destroy the 450 tapes was the right thing to do.

“People feel there was something valuable that was destroyed, but in fact there was something valuable left behind,” Tompkins says.

Tompkins estimates 200 tapes were selected for preservation. The mostly gay men’s pornography wasn’t relevant to the archive’s mandate, Tompkins says.

“We looked at the primary focus of the archives. “One of the big areas we had material in was the video collection that was Canadian. We do not destroy Canadian material, [but] looking at the other non-Canadian material, much of that was second or third generation [and] so much of that material was unstable, especially in the long term,” says Tompkins.

He adds that the tapes were of poor quality and there wasn’t space for them.

Some community members and some of the group’s own 30 volunteers objected to the destruction at the time. The archives are privately funded through a few small government grants, but mostly through community donations.

Tompkins says he remains unaware of the nature of the complaints or how many there were. “No one ever came and said what are you doing,” he says.

The archives held a forum to discuss its mandate at its annual general meeting, held soon after at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, but the destruction of the tapes wasn’t discussed. “It wasn’t necessary” to isolate the issue for debate, says Tompkins.

“If there was internal disagreement there would have been a reconsideration of the proceedings,” he says.

But why didn’t the archives return the tapes to the donors instead of destroying them? Or send them to a US sibling archive?

“It’s not all that easy to go shipping this stuff around. This material had been given to the archives and it was archives property,” Tompkins says. Customs laws and tax credits issued to donors also prevented returning the material, he claims.

As for what is in the archives’ mandate, the group will acquire the collected papers of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre this week.

The archives will celebrate Buddies in Bad Times’s 20th anniversary on Sat, Jun 19 by hosting a gala at the theatre. Reps from both groups will sign an agreement for the archives to acquire the records. Part of the collection includes never-produced plays, which may be compiled as an anthology, says Tompkins.

Buddies will also announce its new artistic director, David Oiye, who will replace the departing Sarah Stanley.

There” also be a dress rehearsal performance of Sky Gilbert’s 1984 play The Dressing Gown, at 7pm. Tickets are $20. All proceeds will go to the archives. Contact the box office at (416) 975-8555.


The CLGA will also open its free 25 Lives: Out And Proud exhibit at Toronto City Hall (Queen at Bay streets) on Mon, Jun 21 from 5:30 to 7pm. The exhibit has returned from a national tour that included showings in Edmonton, Regina, and Saskatoon.

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Power, Theatre, Canada, Toronto, History

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