New academic initiative will document sexual entertainment and economies

Items from the Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano Papers on S.I.R. Productions
Items from the Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano Papers on S.I.R. Productions. (Photo by Aaron Mayes/Special Collections & Archives)

The UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives, in conjunction with the Department of Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies (IGES) in the UNLV College of Liberal Arts, has established a new initiative to preserve the history of sexual entertainment, culture, and economies in Southern Nevada and beyond.

“Sexual Entertainment and Economies” will include collections on sex worker rights and activism, feminist entrepreneurship, adult film and media, and the history of Nevada’s legal brothel industry. 

“As an academic research institution, this initiative will position UNLV as a leading repository for historical and contemporary collections documenting sexual entertainment and economies,” said Sarah Quigley, director of UNLV Special Collections & Archives. “Several industry groups have expressed interest in helping us establish robust collections in these areas, which in turn will support the growing interest in this interdisciplinary academic area of study.”

Collections brought in through this initiative could include business correspondence, journals, and personal materials documenting industry experiences, printed promotional materials, and oral histories with individuals in the industry. These collections will be housed in UNLV Special Collections & Archives, and will be accessible for faculty, students, and researchers in Lied Library.

“Sexual entertainment has been a defining feature of Las Vegas’ identity and an integral part of Nevada’s economy since the city’s early frontier days,” said Lynn Comella, professor and chair of the UNLV Interdisciplinary, Gender, and Ethnic Studies Department, and an award-winning researcher and noted expert on the adult entertainment industry. “Few cities globally have garnered the reputation that Las Vegas has as an adult entertainment mecca.”

Comella, who has researched and published extensively on the cultural and economic impact of the adult entertainment industry, has already started utilizing the collection as part of her Feminist Research Methodologies course, and anticipates that it will have interdisciplinary appeal for other classes at UNLV, including Gender and Pop Culture, Sex and Social Arrangements, and Gender and Society, among others.

The first collection donated comes from Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano, two ground-breaking lesbian filmmakers, writers, and activists. The Shar Rednour and Jackie Strano Papers on S.I.R. Productions include the couple’s personal and professional papers, as well as a number of sex-positive and LGBTQ publications from San Francisco during the 1990s.

This initiative will join world-renowned collections in UNLV Special Collections & Archives on the history of gambling and gaming, significant collections documenting the entertainment history in the city, and the Oral History Research Center, which focuses on gathering the first-person histories of marginalized communities in the city and region.

The UNLV repository will stand alongside other well-respected academic collections housed at prestigious North American institutions, such as the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University and the Sexual Representation Collection at the University of Toronto.

UNLV IGES and Special Collections and Archives will host an educational symposium in January 2024, in conjunction with the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo held in Las Vegas. The event will include several educational panels and an evening reception with the collection donors. The Erotic Heritage Museum is the title sponsor for the symposium and reception. Several preview discussions, co-sponsored by Black Mountain Institute, UNLV IGES, and Special Collections and Archives, were held during the fall semester. 

For information about planning a research visit to UNLV Special Collections & Archives, including hours, reading room policies, and collection usage rules, visit the Special Collections & Archives website
For more information about the collecting initiative, visit the Special Collections & Archives website. For those interested in supporting the collection, make a donation through the UNLV Foundation (select the Sexual Entertainment & Economies option when making your donation).

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