Remembering Our Dear Friend

From around the time of his retirement in 2005 to his passing in 2018, Neil Richards made the University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections his home away from home. He had chosen to spend his retirement years doing what he loved: collecting rare or locally relevant materials related to LGBT+ lifestyles. Every morning he would enter with his distinctive shuffling step. A few jokes, a cheeky grin, a cup of coffee, and then he would settle down at his desk and begin a day of catching up on the latest in Queer news and chasing down the unique treasures that sang to his collector’s heart. These treasures would arrive in stacks of enticing packages, colorfully stamped. But Neil would always wait to open them until the afternoon — he enjoyed the anticipation. His desk was always piled high with these treasures–everything from sardonically witty postcards to comic books to a handwritten letter by iconic lesbian author Radcliffe Hall. Often, on my journeys back and forth across the archives, he would excitedly gesture me over, show me his latest E-Bay find, explain to me the fascinating history of the unassuming lavender pamphlet he held in a hand that had leafed through books by the thousands. His hands seemed to have an intelligence to them, as though he was able to gauge the value of anything he picked up just by touch. The joy Neil found in hunting down something rare, something unique, something one-of-a-kind was always present and often contagious. He inspired me to begin my own collections, showed me that collecting was not just about accumulating but about sharing, learning, and loving.

The Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity, and all of Neil’s collection work was very much a labour of love, and in this post, I would like to share with you some of that work. Over the past thirteen years, numerous exhibitions, digital displays, blog posts and articles have been created around Neil’s collections. What follows is a (not nearly comprehensive) list of links to some of these byproducts of Neil’s devoted collecting work.

Digital Resources: 

Blog Posts and Articles:

In the News: 

Exhibitions and Events: 

The 12 Days of Archives

One of my favourite times of year has come again! That time of year when we get to dig through our new arrivals and old favourite and showcase some of the neat things we have in these archives of ours. Everyone take a deep breath and sing along…

On the 12th Day of Christmas my Archives gave to me…

12 LGBT Buttons

Neil Richard Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity,  HQ76.96 B88


11 Ceramic Ashtrays

Duff Spafford fonds, MG 281


10 Sask Artist Greeting Cards

Mac and Beth Hone fonds, MG 183


9 Vintage Matchbooks

Don Kerr fonds, MG 169


8 Sledders Sledding (poorly)

Pamphlet Collection, Postcards, Views of Canadian Sports, LXXVII-134


7 U of S Patches

Sylvia Fedoruk fonds, MG 435


6  Frosh Week Students

University Photograph Collection, A-2976


5 Beer Labels

R.L. Sweet fonds, MG 401


4 Chilean Birds

C.S. Houston fonds, MG 164


3 Antique Keys

Allan Cushon fonds, MG 545 & Artifacts Collections, RG 2000


2 Charging Caribou

                                             Zepp/Varga Collection, PV1014.                                                        Jacob Irkok (1937-2009), Arviat Charging Caribou, antler.


1 Explorer’s Letter

Stuart Houston fonds, MG164.


If you would like to experience the 12 Days of Archives in real-time next year, follow us on twitter and facebook! And if you want to see what we featured in our previous years, check out these posts from 2016, 2015, and 2014!