The Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M), based in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, USA, has much information and details on the beginning of the leather subculture and BDSM community. The 10,000 sq. foot, two-story building houses:

  • Eight exhibition galleries;
  • A 1,425 sq. foot climate controlled archival storage space;
  • A 164 seat auditorium;
  • A 600 sq. foot reading library to house the research collections;
  • Various other spaces which serve as working space for staff, volunteers and researchers.

In addition to activities in Chicago, the LA&M serves the leather world by preserving material from all leather communities, sending “traveling” exhibits around the country, and providing email and telephone research assistance.


The Leather Archives & Museum is a library, museum and archives pertaining to leather, fetishism, sadomasochism, and alternative sexual practices. The geographic collection scope is worldwide and includes all sexual orientations and genders. The library collection contains published books, magazines, scholarly publications, films and electronic resources related to the subject matter. The museum collection contains original erotic art and artifacts from alternative sex organizations and individuals. The archival collection contains unpublished papers and records from notable activists, artists, businesses and organizations related to the subject matter.

Notable library resources include the writings of the Marquis de Sade, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Laura Antoniou, John Preston and Larry Townsend. Complete sets of Drummer Magazine, Bound & Gagged, SandMutopia Guardian and other periodicals are also available in the library.

Notable museum artifacts include original works by Tom of Finland, the largest collection of original Etienne works in the world, historic sadomasochism and sexual devices, and colors (patches worn on the back of leather vests) from hundreds of existing and former Gay and Lesbian motorcycle clubs, leather clubs and sex clubs. A complete inventory of photographs taken by Kris Studios, a legendary publisher of physique photographs in the 1950s also resides at the LA&M.

Notable archival collections include the papers of Tony DeBlase, Joseph Bean, Jim Kane, Leondard Dworkin and the records of The National Leather Association, International Mr. Leather, and The Mineshaft.


The museum exhibitions and library are open to the public (18 years and older) during regular museum hours. Archival collections are made available by appointment to bona fide researchers.


In August 1991, the LA&M was incorporated in the state of Illinois. From that date until May 1993, the Leather Archives was, in effect, an idea struggling to take form. In 1993, 1994 and 1995, the LA&M existed as a growing collection and appeared in public only as exhibits at International Mr. Leather in Chicago (plus a couple of abortive attempts to appear on the road). In fact, most members of the Leather Communities of the world - even in North America - were still unaware of the LA&M. In 1996, a storefront home for the LA&M was opened in Chicago. Much larger exhibits were mounted in this space, but the collection outgrew the space very rapidly.

In July 1997, Joseph W. Bean arrived to take on the job of Executive Director of the LA&M. Within three months, he had started a series of changing exhibits and proposed to the Board of Directors a capital campaign to raise funds to buy a building. The capital campaign was announced in December of 1997, and met with immediate success.

The LA&M moved into its permanent home in late 1999. The 10,000 sq. foot building provided for exhibits and the effective storage of the ever-growing collection of leather history. In January of 2002, Joseph Bean retired from the LA&M, and then-volunteer Rick Storer was hired to continue the work started by Bean and the entire leather community. In August of 2004, the leather community made a $225,000 balloon payment to pay off the mortgage of the LA&M. Also during 2004, the exhibit space was expanded from one 2,000 sq. foot gallery to a full building tour of eight galleries.

The European travel exhibit

In 2005, a travel exhibit was for the first time in Europe for an extended time, traveling the continent organized by Matthias "Leatherbound", European coordinator for the Leather Archives and Museum.

The exhibit arrived in Europe on 30 July 2005. During 26–30 October 2005, at Leatherpride in Amsterdam, the travelling exhibit is back at Rob Amsterdam during this special season of leather, SM and fetish.

Since 2005 the roadshow places has been to may places and been seen by hundreds .. and an overwhelming response has been had - to show Leather BDSM Fetish history. / Leather Archives and Museum site in Europe


The Leather Archives and Museum features several exhibitions:

  • Les Farnek[1]
  • Etienne [2]
  • Joseph W. Bean[3]
  • David Greiger[4]
  • Naomi Leilani Kawkam[5]
  • Kris Studios[6]

The are also several online exhibitions:

  • The Oral History project documenting the lives of:
    • Tony DeBlase
    • Marcus Hernandez
    • Larry Townsend
    • Tom Dombkowski
    • David Kloss
    • Janus Rainer
    • Cliff Raven
    • Fakir Musafar
    • John Birch

  • The Tony DeBlase Collection
  • National Library Week Survey
  • International Mr. Leather, 25 Years of Champions
  • Kris Studios of Chicago
  • Colors of the Cycle MC
  • What Kinky People Are Reading
  • Online Art Exhibit
  • Online Photography Exhibit


External links

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