Best Of 2020

Best-Kept Secret in a Clifton Church Basement: Ohio Lesbian Archives

Ohio Lesbian Archives

In a cozy corner on the lower level of the Clifton United Methodist Church, the Ohio Lesbian Archives bursts at the seams with decades’ worth of ephemera: event fliers, newspaper articles, books, vinyl records, posters, political pins and more, which all tell the storied history of LGBTQ life in Cincinnati and beyond. To just call it a basement is a slight disservice — comfortable and well-lit by windows to the church garden outside, the OLA exudes an air of a dearly loved library nook. Founded in 1989 by Phebe Beiser and Victoria Ramstetter, who are still both running the show 30 years later, the archives began as a collection of novels, fliers, and gay and lesbian publications from across the country that they had gathered through editing Dinah, a grassroots lesbian newsletter started in 1975. Vital in connecting the Cincinnati lesbian community pre-social media, the women at Dinah wrote literary reviews, personal essays and political columns, covered events, published photography, organized fundraisers and parties and even started a softball team. First housed in the Crazy Ladies Bookstore in Northside — a haven for lesbians, gay men, feminists and forward thinkers that opened in 1979 — the OLA relocated to its current home when the bookstore closed in 2002. Now the archives are open by appointment to explore its treasure trove of ephemera and literature, including roughly 1,000 books bearing titles like Lesbian Art in America and Gone is the Shame: A Compendium of Lesbian Erotica and an original, yellowed copy of the 1982, 27-page Cincinnati Enquirer feature “Homosexuals: A Cincinnati Report.” Through vignettes of the past, the OLA is preserving and honoring history for generations to come. Ohio Lesbian Archives, Clifton United Methodist Church, 3416 Clifton Ave., Clifton, facebook.com/olarchives.