Digitization gives new life to archived news

Posted: April 14th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Out of the Archives | No Comments

By Lambda Archives staff | Out from the Archives

LGBTQ newspapers, magazines, and newsletters that have informed and enlightened the San Diego LGBTQ community for decades are among the most-accessed collections in the holdings of Lambda Archives.

Tom Ellerbrock, publisher of Update, is featured on the cover of one of the last issues of the newspaper.

Dozens of researchers have flipped page after page of newspapers on a quest to learn the specifics of our collective past. Hours of page turning by Kate Clark of Parkeology turned up articles for her history of the Balboa Park “Fruit Loop.”

This newspaper distribution box from the Gay & Lesbian Times is now housed in the Archives.

Paul Detwiler has sought articles and advertisements pertaining to early gay bars for an upcoming documentary. Our own historian-in-residence, Lillian Faderman, has spent hours scouring our papers searching for material while conducting research for her books.

With several publications of many hundreds of editions each, searching for specific stories has required knowledge of specific publications and dates of newsworthy events.

Prior to taping a segment for NBC’s “Dateline” about the 20th anniversary of Andrew Cunanan’s 1997 killing spree, Roman Jimenez, former editor of Update, recently reviewed the articles he had written about the tragedy decades ago.

While Jimenez was able to find these stories without significant effort, for most visitors to the Archives, searches can take hours and often involve a lucky-needle-in-a-haystack approach, rather than a targeted pursuit, and important information may be missed.

Susan Jester, who is still very active on the local scene today, was featured on the cover of San Diego Scene May 7, 1986. (Photos courtesy Lambda Archives)

Soon our archived periodicals will be easier to access and search than ever before. Digitizing our community’s historical periodicals will allow greater access for researchers and community members alike, and will open opportunities for remote access of materials currently stored exclusively in the Archives.

Lambda Archives is finalizing a deal to digitize many of our periodicals at a sufficiently-high resolution to create a word-searchable database, making it possible to enter search terms to find specific subjects.

Through agreements with the original copyright-holders, many of our community’s papers will be widely searchable and their content will live on.

Some of the publications to be digitized include Update and Bravo! Newsmagazine.

Update was a long-running weekly newspaper operating from 1979 to 2006. Publisher Tom Ellerbrock still resides in San Diego and is allowing the Archives to digitize the paper which, given its longevity, will be a great boon to researchers. San Diego Scene was first published as a bi-weekly paper, and later a weekly paper, from March 1986 until it folded in November 1987.

Nicole Murray Ramirez was among its columnists, as was the late, great Queen Eddie Conlan. Tony Zampella gave us the rights to scan Scene and Bravo! Newsmagazine, which he published from 1987 to 1993.

Other periodicals in our collection range from long-published familiar papers to more obscure newsletters. For over 22 years, from 1988 to 2010, the weekly Gay and Lesbian Times served the community and was Update’s primary competitor.

We have a full set of the newspaper, many of its files (including photos and article notes), as well as many of the publisher’s personal notes and papers.

The Gayzette was published from September 1982 until September 1986. Christine Kehoe served as editor of the newspaper and was able to draw on her increased public profile to become the first LGBTQ person to successfully seek public office in San Diego.

The entire history of the Gay & Lesbian Times (as yet unprocessed), along with a full set of the newspapers are in the Archives. (Courtesy Lambda Archives)

One of the other earliest publications we have is The Prodigal, which was produced by the Metropolitan Community Church. Our collection covers 1970-1994.

As far as a general interest newspaper, one of the oldest we have is The San Diego Son, which was published from 1973-1997 and then again for a while in 1980. There are also some more unusual entries in our collection including the newsletter of the American Gay & Lesbian Atheist, 1990-1995.

We also have numerous Latino/a LGBTQ papers, many in Spanish, from Tijuana and across Mexico. We only have a few copies of most of these, either because the papers didn’t last long or we were only able to get a few editions.

Among the titles represented are San Diego’s La Voz de Pacto; Baja California’s Frontera Gay, ?Y Que?; and from Los Angeles: De Ambiente, Mexico City and Nuevo Ambiente.

We look forward to making these papers more accessible for future generations.

—Lambda Archives, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to collecting, preserving and teaching the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in San Diego and the Northern Baja California region, is located at 4545 Park Blvd., in University Heights. To learn more, stop in or visit their website at

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