From around the time of his retirement in 2005 to his passing in 2018, Neil Richards made the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections his home away from home. He had chosen to spend his retirement years doing what he loved: collecting rare or locally relevant materials related to LGBT+ lifestyles. Every morning he would enter with his distinctive shuffling step. A few jokes, a cheeky grin, a cup of coffee, and then he would settle down at his desk and begin a day of catching up on the latest in Queer news and chasing down the unique treasures that sang to his collector’s heart. These treasures would arrive in stacks of enticing packages, colorfully stamped. But Neil would always wait to open them until the afternoon — he enjoyed the anticipation. His desk was always piled high with these treasures–everything from sardonically witty postcards to comic books to a handwritten letter by iconic lesbian author Radcliffe Hall. Often, on my journeys back and forth across the archives, he would excitedly gesture me over, show me his latest E-Bay find, explain to me the fascinating history of the unassuming lavender pamphlet he held in a hand that had leafed through books by the thousands. His hands seemed to have an intelligence to them, as though he was able to gauge the value of anything he picked up just by touch. The joy Neil found in hunting down something rare, something unique, something one-of-a-kind was always present and often contagious. He inspired me to begin my own collections, showed me that collecting was not just about accumulating but about sharing, learning, and loving.
The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity, and all of Neil’s collection work was very much a labour of love, and in this post, I would like to share with you some of that work. Over the past thirteen years, numerous exhibitions, digital displays, blog posts and articles have been created around Neil’s collections. What follows is a (not nearly comprehensive) list of links to some of these byproducts of Neil’s devoted collecting work.
- All Frocked Up: Glimpses of Cross-Dressing in Saskatchewan
- Ambisextrous: Gender Impersonators of Music Hall and Vaudeville
- Index of Wrestling Photographs
- Passions Uncovered: Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Pulps
- Saskatchewan Resources for Sexual and Gender Diversity
Blog Posts and Articles:
- Celebrating Saskatoon Pride: 25th Saskatoon Pride Festival – As a salute to Saskatoon Pride and its work, we highlight here a handful of our recent library acquisitions to the Neil Richards Collection.
- Freedom to Read Week 2016: Some controversy-causing children’s books from the Neil Richards Collection.
- Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity: Building the Collection – An update on ways in which the collection has grown (2016)
- Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity: Promoting the Collections – an update on outreach projects (2016)
- Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender Diversity: Using the Collections – An update on ways in which the collection is being used (2016)
- Queer Negative Literature: Why Collect it?
- Trans* Awareness Week (2014): Samples of Trans themed materials from the Richards Collection
- Trans* Awareness Week (2015): Some Trans themed children’s books
In the News:
- Leading Change in the Library, One Book at a Time: The most recent issue of Generations features an article on Neil Richards, a 29 year veteran of the University Library and the man behind the institution’s massive collection of LGBT materials.
- Transqueery: Miki Encounters the Neil Richards Collection: Miki Mappin, a somewhat eccentric trans gender individual is asked to submit a proposal for an artwork which would engage with a queer collection at the University of Saskatchewan Archives.
- U of S houses one of the largest LGBT archives in the country: As part of their coverage of Saskatoon’s Pride Festival, CBC radio interviewed the man behind the Neil Richards Collection for Sexual and Gender diversity.
Exhibitions and Events:
- Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity Launch – November-December 2011
- Strange Texts – March – May 2013
- QueerUS:Language, Space and the University of Saskatchewan – October – December 2013
- Year of Queer / Books with Stories – September 2014
- Year of Queer 2 – September 2015
- Event: Returning to The Well: Radclyffe Hall and the Marketing of Lesbian Pulp Fiction – September 2015
- Olio: an unorganized collection or mixture of various things – October-November 2016
- Cabaret Display – April 2017
- Now You See It: Queer Films – September-November 2017