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Leather Archives & Museum: Why It's a Must See

There's nothing sexier than the feel of real leather against your skin. Unless you're PETA. And even then--there's at least a quizzical fascination. As for BDSM, who doesn't get giddy at the idea of their partner lovingly pushing their sexual buttons? GetLusty for Couples is simply ecstatic to be based in Chicago, with its rich and interesting past in the leather community. So let's take a look at the museum dedicated to the legacy of leather.

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Curious about kink? The Leather Archives and Museum, located in Rogers Park at 6418 N. Greenview Ave in Chicago, is more than just a room full of tanned hides. It is the continuing efforts by the leather lifestyle community to preserve and exhibit their history and culture for future generations. A virgin visitor might walk through the doors out of mild curiosity about the leather collection. LA&M offers an historical depth for the the visitor and removes it from the realm of the curious, planting it firmly in the realm of the scholarly.

The 10,000 sq ft (930 m2), two-story building houses:

  • Eight exhibition galleries; 
  • A 1,425 sq ft (132.4 m2) climate controlled archival storage space; 
  • A 164 seat auditorium; 
  • A 600 sq ft (56 m2) reading library to house the research collections; 
  • Various other spaces which serve as working space for staff, volunteers and researchers. 

They have an extensive collection of historically-significant leathers, including a variety of hats and boots. There is also an ever-growing collection of patches from fetish clubs from around the world.

Despite the name, the collections at LA&M encompass much more than physical leather. The Teri Rose Memorial Library contains over 17,000 books and magazines. Additionally, there are extensive collections of fetish magazines, periodicals (one of their largest collections), as well as visual media such as photographs and film (some of which were previously unpublished, homemade documentaries of people’s lives or events). LA&M is also in the process of documenting the oral history of important people, places, and things in the Leather community.


The exhibit rooms showcase central aspects of alternative cultures as well as some of the important personages. You don't want to miss the stainless-steel, custom-made, male chastity device in The Dungeon Exhibit, or the vast collection of BDSM audio and video collection in The Leather Sins Screening Room.

The Leather Bar exhibit is, as one might imagine, devoted to leather bars, one of the early meeting places for the Leather community. Rather than a simple display, the room is modeled on an actual bar, and features Randy, a mannequin always ready to share a drink. It contains a plethora of memorabilia from famous bars.

There is also a room for the women: A Room of Her Own is an installation for the Women’s Leather History Project. Fakir Musafar (pictured to the left) receives considerable space. Several of his photographs are featured alongside memorabilia from his career.

The Etienne auditorium houses actual seats from the historic Paradise Theatre which opened in 1928, and was demolished in 1956. When one of the original Chicago leather bars closed down, the owners were forced to remove the original artwork from the walls. After finding its new home, Gold Coast owners re-painted their murals on panels, in case they had to move again. They moved locations 4 more times. Now the artwork is proudly displayed in the Etienne auditorium.

The museum accommodates to guest artists with a guest gallery (lovingly named G.A.G); a contemporary fetish gallery. Works by renowned and emerging artists are periodically displayed all year long. In addition to being used for LA&M’s film series, Pantheon of Leather Awards (now staged in Atlanta for 2012), and demonstrations, the 146 seat auditorium is available for a variety of events.

The Leather Archives and Museum is an extensive effort to preserve the cultures of Leather, Fetishism, Sadomasochism, and other alternative sexual practices. It's not just a museum, though, Lusties. The archives host a number of events, advocating for kink in our communities. Throughout the year they have jumble sales, auctions, art exhibitions, film festivals, and parties.

Simply put: the Leather Archives & Museum is a must visit!

The Leather Archives and Museum's hours: Thursday 11AM -7PM. Friday 11AM - 7pm. Saturday 11AM - 5PM. Sunday 11AM - 5PM. Don’t arrive too late; the last admission is 30 minutes before closing.

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