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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 3269

Buzz Bense collection


Graphic design layouts, posters, apparel, condoms, and erotic illustrations.


  • circa 1970-2002

Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


29 linear feet (29 boxes)
63.62928 Gigabytes

Includes posters promoting AIDS education, safe sex awareness, and erotica. Printed materials also include graphic designs for condoms. Draft illustrations for erotic graphic novels, psychedelic gay erotic drawings, reproductions, and original art specifically commissioned for the Eros club. Business materials are included from Buzz Bense's business and from his involvement in other organizations. Buttons, t-shirts, condoms, mailers, calendars, and other ephemera focused on sex education are included.

Biographical / Historical

Buzz Bense (1949-2016) was a graphic designer, sex activist/educator, and sex club operator. Bense attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, where he focused on theater arts. After Bense completed a master's degree in theater at the University of British Columbia. In 1986 Bense opened a sex club in a large warehouse at 890 Folsom Street in San Francisco, California. In this space Bense hosted events by groups including J.O. Buddies, Blow Buddies, the San Francisco Jacks, the San Francisco Golden Showers Association, and the Mother Goose Club's "Jack and Jill" parties as well as AIDS benefits. After the closure of the club at 890 Folsom in 1991 Bense and his partner, Bob West, opened Eros, a sex club and sauna on Market Street in the Castro district of San Francisco in 1992. During the 1990s Bense was a part of the Coalition for Healthy Sex, formed to encourage safer sex and defending clubs from police brutality.


Collection is minimally processed. Materials are loosely arranged in fourteen series: Apparel; Audio-visual; Born-digital; Calendars; Condoms; Condom Resource Center documents; Correspondence; Financials; Graphic design and illustrations; HIV and STD training prevention; Images; Mailers and advertisements; Managerial logs; and Newspapers.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Special equipment or surrogate required; consult Houghton staff.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2019M-061. Purchased from Center for Sex and Culture, 2019.

Separated Materials

Born-digital material has been separated: Am3269BD.

Processing Information

Minimally processed by Magdaline Lawhorn, 2019.

Bense, Buzz. Buzz Bense collection, circa 1970-2002 (MS Am 3269): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2019 April 10
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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