From Cape Town to Copenhagen and Sydney to Chicago, the day we released the news about the Amsterdam Argos closing the world was too small. Or rather, our mailbox, as memories and comments came in from all over the world. The case of the Argos proves not only to be a best practice in European leather history preservation but also shows The LeatherHistory.eu Foundation is ready to take the next step. Two years earlier than planned and not without some serious challenges.
When The LeatherHistory.eu Foundation was founded in 2011, we announced it would take five years before we were fully established as a source for information and material about European Leather History. Little did we know we would arrive there way earlier than planned.
Thanks to the support of the community
From the start, we’ve had a lot of people supporting us. Especially from our hometown in good old Amsterdam we received some very generous donations from local businesses and organisations. With a little help from PayPal, we were also happy to receive donations from members from the international leather & fetish community. Many promoted our foundation through their websites and events, we are especially thankful towards community organizations such as the ECMC and BLUF for spreading word among members about our mission and work. And who’d have thought we’d inspire the community to get active with leather history preservation! Not only did our Mister Gallery turn out to be an example for similar local initiatives, our initial mission to raise more awareness about the importance of the preservation of leather history inspired several clubs to get active and document more about the history of leather & fetish lifestyles and cultures.
Much more work than maintaining a website
Where we focused on ‘getting the message out’ in 2012, 2013 was the year where we really got talking with the community about how exactly we could improve the preservation on European leather & fetish history. Rather organically we established a community network which has already provided us with interesting information and material. But there’s no time to get lazy, as we gained more attention in the community, the press quickly caught up. It’s not uncommon for lgbt and mainstream media to contact us with questions or requests for information, material or contact details. And it’s not only journalists, many a college student has been referred to us by their teacher to hunt for information. Yet maintaining the leatherhistory.eu website isn’t the only thing we do. Over the past three years we were present at various events, at home and abroad, to talk with the community about leather history. On several occasions we also provided education through a lecture or workshop. And we provided input and cooperation for specific leather & fetish events where our expertise and material proved valuable for the organising party, the most well known being the annual X Awards at Darklands in Antwerp.
The case of the Argos: together we preserve leather history
Had we gained visibility in 2012 and 2013, we saw the biggest breakthrough for the foundation in 2014. Requests for on- and offline cooperation with the community have increased and led to new challenges to our work. Self-made content drove thousands to our website in the last few days of 2014, while our mailbox got flooded when we announced our call for information and material about the history of the Amsterdam Argos bar in the early days of 2015. And if you’re wondering when we’ll publish our findings, we can assure you we’re working on it. We even had to have our initial deadline postponed as it will take some time to analyze and filter all material and information and conduct the interviews we have planned. While it is a lot of work, one thing is as clear as it ever could be: the case of the Argos shows we’ve succeeded in finding a new and great way to preserve European leather & fetish history. We see preserving European leather & fetish history as something we should do together with the community, and in this case we’ll certainly have achieved that goal.
Challenges for 2015
While our work might be appreciated and valued, the success that 2014 brought us also showed us what challenges we have for 2015.
To name a few:
- We’re still working on establishing relations with local lgbt archives about the physical preservation of material. Because you, the community, have told us you prefer to preserve historical material locally and accessibly.
- We’ve set out questions for help and information on legal matters and the preservation of our material. A lot of the material sent in by the community isn’t suited for publication due to the copyright laws. But there are criminal laws to respect as well, especially when it comes to material published in times more liberal than today. By the end of this year, a clear content policy for publications our website will be introduced, though that should never prevent you from sending us whatever information or material you have!
- We’re working on a new design for the website that better matches visitors’ needs. We don’t like to change the design of our website every year, but modern ways require a modern online environment for our website. Expect a new and improved look later this year.
- We’re increasing our offline activities. After successful experiences in the past, we think our offline activities can be increased. We want to make more contributions to European leather & fetish events and we’re not just thinking about workshops and lectures. If you’d like to do ‘something with leather history’ at your event, we should really start talking this year.
- We’re exploring new ways to publish our work. Since last year, we’ve been talking with various lgbt and fetish media to share content and information. This not only generates visibility for our work, it fits our mission to share European leather & fetish history. Our supporters have also been telling us they highly value our self-made content. So we’ve started to explore how we can make our publications and European leather history accessible offline. A first non-digital release will become available mid-February.
- We’ll be making more calls for info and material to the community. Because you highly value our self-made content. But we won’t make calls every day about just anything. Having an overview on what happened when, we will develop a content calendar to plan calls concerning specific topics and tell you by what deadline information and material will be published on our website. Because preserving the history of our leather & fetish community is something we’d like to do together with you!
And maybe most importantly:
- We’re establishing a new board in 2015. To help us on our mission and with the various challenges we face at this moment. We have been scouting people last year, and this year we’ll approach those who we noticed have a true heart for (the preservation of) European leather & fetish history. This will be the biggest change you will see happening at The LeatherHistory.eu Foundation this year.
Last but not least, we’d like to take away one myth that seems to exist in the European leather & fetish community and it concerns our finances. Contrary to what many seem to believe, we are not as wealthy as our friends in Chicago. We started out very small and our growth has been more successful than expected. We are currently reviewing new ways to generate resources for the foundation, but we will always depend on your support as well. If you believe in our work and our mission and want to support us, please consider making a donation. Your donations keep our website online and make sure we can continue our work to map, preserve and share the history of leather & fetish cultures and lifestyles in Europe.
We’ve come a long way since October 2011 and what a ride it has been. Who’d have thought we would be ahead of schedule by now? We certainly didn’t, and we’ve got you, the community, to thank for that. Thank you for supporting us!