Physique Pictorial reprint among German gay museum's archival holdings

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Physique Pictorial reprint among German gay museum's archival holdings

Bob Mizer's works can be found in contemporary galleries and exhibits the world over. But dig a little deeper into a museum's archives and you'll likely find them there as well, including The Schwules Museum in Berlin, Germany. 

The Schwules Museum, opened in 1985, features a variety of media that are produced by and of interest to gay men, specifically. The first exhibit in the gallery, "90 Years of Homo Press," was unveiled in 1986, and prominently featured U.S. publishers, including Mizer himself. Now located in Berlin's Tiergarten District, the museum boasts a small but active legion of paid staff members, as well as a much larger team of volunteers. 

"This is a museum that really embodies what we'd eventually like to become," says Dennis Bell, president and CEO of The Bob Mizer Foundation, "and that is a functioning gallery space where we can exhibit the works of vintage and contemporary photographers. We're coming closer to that making that vision a reality every day as we continue our move to our permanent headquarters, and if the success of the Schwule Museum is any indicator, we think that move will be a tremendous step forward for our organization."

In addition to gallery space, the museum also hosts a variety of exhibitions that feature a variety of media. Current exhibits include a retrospective on the career of 1960s and '70s gay activist Martin Dannecker (closing Feb. 28), as well as a photographic examination of public toilets as cruising spots for gay men, coordinated by French photographer Marc Martin. That exhibition runs until Feb. 19. 

The museum's non-lending library hosts the museum's vast archives of printed material, 35mm films, photos, film negatives, and gay-related ephemera. A research space includes a photocopy machine. 

"Records, cassettes, VHS, Super8 films, political flyers, porn flyers, physique and erotic art magazines from around the world -- it's all there," says Bell. "The collection appears to be expansive and impressive. We at The Bob Mizer Foundation are excited to be pursuing a similar operation, where researchers and scholars can browse our archives under one roof."

Though most of the museum's archives aren't available online, its complete book collection is available to browse -- and that includes the complete reprint of Physique Pictorial, published by TASCHEN Books in the late 1990s. 

A selection of covers from the museum's collection of male physique magazines and gay porn magazines spanning from the 1950s-'90s appears in the two volumes that make up the "Heavy Traffic" series (you can buy both volume 1 and volume 2 on Amazon). Covers from the first decade of Physique Pictorial are featured prominently in the books, published by German publisher Bruno Gmunder (to be featured in next week's blog article). 

"Looking at these magazines, we see a world that opens up before us that is mostly forgotten today," historian Kevin Clarke writes in the introduction to "Heavy Traffic." "I consider these magazines more relevant than any history book ever written on gay liberation and gay history of the 1960s and '70s."

The mission of the Schwules Museum and of such publications directly aligns with those of The Foundation, Bell adds. 

"We all have the same goal -- to preserve these tangible reminders of our history for future generations," he says.