Archival Adventures in Small Repositories

A Gay Ol' Time at the William Way LGBT Center Archives

Wednesday, 7/4/12

Globe-trotting cultural ambassadors to South America. Documentary filmmakers. Founders of the Philamigos Institute of Learning in Philadelphia. Meet James A. Caulfield, artist and gay veteran of WWII, and his partner, Cuban-born linguist and University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Rafael A. Suarez.

The James T. Caulfield and Rafael A. Suarez papers, 1918-1985 (bulk 1944-1985) was my favorite collection at the John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia in the William Way Community Center. It is an extraordinary resource that extensively documents the personal and professional lives of Dr. Rafael A. Suarez and James T. Caulfield, including the language and art institute they founded, their travels in Central and South America, and Caulfield's experiences as a gay soldier in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The collection contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, ephemera, over a dozen 16-mm films, and stamps/correspondence regarding philately. From the Philamigos Institute of Learning, where the couple taught languages, art, and photography, this collection contains correspondence and some ephemera. From Suarez and Caulfield's travels (together and separately), this collection contains correspondence, photographs, films, passports/legal documents, ephemera, and materials relating to the documentary on Brazil they did on commission from the Brazilian government. From Caulfield's World War II service in the Pacific Theater, the collection contains some original drawings by Caulfield and many editions of Flak-Daily, published by the 97th AAA (Antiaircraft Artillery) Group. The couple maintained relationships with friends abroad in many different countries (mostly in Latin America), and they discussed issues of development, international relations, foreign aid, language learning, and other topics.

The Caulfield/Suarez is an exceptional collection that covers many interesting topics: development in Brazil and Latin America in general, community-based education and language-learning, and the experiences of a gay soldier during World War II. It is far from the only important archival collection at the William Way Community Center, however! Another highlight, in my opinion, is the Bill Way Collection, 1942-2004 (bulk 1968-1987). It contains nine scrapbooks by the William Way Community Center's namesake, documenting the vibrant gay community that was burgeoning in the 1970s and 1980s and providing an intimate view into the last days of an AIDS patient. In addition, because Way was assistant executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, the scrapbooks include an abundance of ephemera and other materials relating to city planning and civic improvement. I was delighted to find a program from the grand opening of the Gallery at Market East mall!

There are many more treasures to explore at the John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia in the William Way Community Center, so I encourage you to check it out for yourself. I promise you'll have a gay ol' time!

See all finding aids for John J. Wilcox Jr. GLBT Archives of Philadelphia.

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