Scope and arrangement
The bulk of the collection consists of the telephone logs compiled by the Gay Switchboard during the period from March 1972 to July 1983. Each of the three nightly shifts has its own notebook page or log sheet, with categories of calls and (after September 1980) numerical summaries. As such, the logs reveal the social, political, and recreational concerns of the New York gay community before the impact of AIDS. It should be noted that these log sheets fall into two types. Those compiled between March 1972 and September 1979 were kept in a series of bound notebooks and occasional loose sheets, and contain a brief subjective description of the nature of the call. Starting in October 1980, the Switchboard began to use pre-printed log sheets, with set call categories and summary information for each shift. There is gap in the log sheets between September 1979 and October 1980.
The Switchboard made a great effort to provide accurate and courteous service to callers. Much of the correspondence and reference material in the collection are concerned with updating files of names and addresses. The Switchboard also printed a series of procedural handbooks for volunteers.
Although the Switchboard was resolutely apolitical during the period represented in the collection, it could not help but be affected by the events occurring around it (see, for example, the materials generated by the Switchboard's participation in the annual Gay Pride Week activities). This material is supplemented by a series of materials concerning goods and services (particularly medical and legal) listed by the Switchboard. As noted earlier, during the period represented by the collection, the Switchboard was supported entirely by voluntary contributions; there was no charge for a physician, lawyer, counselor, bathhouse, or gay bar to be listed with the Switchboard.
The structure of the Switchboard was generally informal, therefore such materials as administrative and financial records are sparse. A sense of the daily operation of the Switchboard can be better judged from the series of general correspondence, mailing lists (undated) of individuals and organizations active in the homophile movement, and ephemera either generated by the Switchboard or received from other homophile organizations and publications.
The Gay Switchboard of New York records are arranged in five series: