The great hunt for the world's first LGBTQ archive
Before Nazism, a German institute cemented itself as gay liberation’s epicenter. For 40 years, activists have been searching for its legendary collection.
In the early 1990s, a Canadian student named Adam Smith opened a dumpster in the basement of his apartment building in Vancouver, Canada, and discovered a stack of old leather suitcases. In one of them was a plaster “death mask” cast from the face of a man with a thick mustache. In others were journals, papers, and photographs. Smith deduced the trove belonged to an elderly Chinese resident of his building who’d recently passed away. Unable to bear seeing them tossed, he moved them into his apartment and posted a short note on a forum on the then-young internet with the names he’d come across. “WANTED: anyone familiar with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld or Li Shiu Tong.” He was wondering, he