The University of Victoria’s Transgender Archives — already believed to be the largest such collection of its kind — is about to get a lot bigger.
More than 125 bankers’ boxes worth of material are crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Northern Ireland to join the local collection. Packed inside are books, magazines, newspaper clippings, audio and video recordings, photographs and other artifacts that UVic sociology professor Aaron Devor says are significant for their scope. They likely made up the largest such collection in the United Kingdom and possibly the largest in the world, next to UVic’s.
“I suspect that it is the second-largest collection in the world,” Devor said.
The archive belonged to Richard Ekins, a retired sociology and cultural studies professor, who began collecting materials in 1986.
“His approach to collecting had to do with what constitutes knowledge,” Devor said.
Ekins sought to understand how attitudes and representations of transgender people have developed and changed over time. He divided materials between three perspectives: How professionals saw the transgender community, how the community saw itself and how it was seen by the public.
While the University of Ulster hosted the collection for decades, Ekins moved them into a climate-controlled area after he retired. Because of their academic interests, Ekins and Devor had been acquainted for decades and Ekins was aware of UVic’s archive.
“At some point, he got in touch and said that he was retired now and looking for a home for his archive,” Devor said.
The acquisition joins more than 600 books and 500 periodical titles.
Devor said it will add significant breadth to the current collection, especially in terms of British and European transgender history.
“We don’t have a large body of materials on the history of transgender activity in the United Kingdom, so this will flesh out that component of our collection,” he said. “It will be great to give a more comprehensive view on what’s been going on in transgender rights and organizing in a broader swath of the globe.”
He anticipates that the collection will grow by about 50 per cent, but won’t know for sure until the materials are sorted. They are expected to arrive around the end of July.