The collection is located at the University of Victoria Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives (Mearns Centre for Learning), in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and is co-ordinated by founder and academic director Aaron H. Devor and managed by the director of special collections and university archivist, Lara Wilson.
All holdings of the Transgender Archives are accessible to the public, free of charge, for research, investigation, and exploration.
The genesis of the Transgender Archives occurred in 2005 with a conversation between the founder of the archives, Aaron Devor, and Rikki Swin, a one-time Chicago manufacturer of plastic injection moulding and founder of the Rikki Swin Institute who moved to Victoria in 2007.
The discussion led Swin to donate her institute's entire material holdings to the University of Victoria Libraries' Archives and Special Collections. Swin's founding donation is one of three major donations held in the archives.
The second major donation of material occurred when the daughter of Reed Erickson donated her father's extensive papers to the archives. Reed Erickson, founder of the Erickson Educational Foundation, died in 1992.
The third major donation occurred when Professor Richard Ekins donated the entire University of Ulster (Northern Ireland, United Kingdom) Trans-Gender Archive.
Officially opening in 2011, the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria has gathered other smaller donations and has grown to be "exceptional in its focus, size, and scope" due to its unique position as being one of the only archives in the world that institutionally houses material exclusively reflecting the transgender experience.
Libraries and the LGBTQ community lists the Transgender Archives in their List of LGBTQ Archives/Libraries/Special Collections as one of the only archival institutions that exclusively houses transgender material.
The Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria contains archival material from both large and small transgender organizations and focuses on the contributions of activists and researchers working for the betterment of transgender people.
While the archive currently emphasizes collections from North America and Europe, there are over 17 countries represented in the collection reflecting over a century of activism and research; if the materials were all lined up along one long shelf, the collection would stretch the length of a football field.
Holdings include: approximately 2,000 books, including many rare and first editions; large collection of informational pamphlets and booklets produced by advocacy organizations for educational purposes; historical and organizational records for several significant trans* activist groups including personal papers from some leaders; international newsletters from trans* communities; multimedia collection representing and recording trans* experience; and a large collection of ephemera.
At approximately 320 linear feet (97 linear meters) of books, periodicals, and archival materials, the collection is the "largest trans*-focused archival collection in the world."
Approximately 25 per cent of the collection is cataloged and is available to the public, with 60 per cent of the collection reflecting male-to-female experiences.
While the archives is accessible to the public, free of charge, key documents are slowly being made available online (see external links).
In 2014 founder and academic director Aaron H. Devor published the book The Transgender Archives: Foundations for the Future, featuring the collection of the Transgender Archives. The publication was a finalist in the 27th Lambda Literary Awards ("Lammys") in the category of "LGBT nonfiction".
From March 21-23, 2014, the Transgender Archives held a three-day international symposium at the University of Victoria entitled "Moving Trans* History Forward" where researchers and activists gathered to retrieve and preserve the stories and records of transgender pioneers of the early 1960s onwards.
The Moving Trans History Forward: Building Communities - Sharing Connections conference took place at the University of Victoria March 17-20, 2016. It has been hailed as the largest transgender conference in Canadian history. Trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) community-based scholars and activists, academics, archivists, librarians, family members, and allies of trans and GNC people explored preserving and recounting the history of trans and GNC people and communities in all eras and regions of the world. Events included: keynote speakers Jamison Green and Martine Rothblatt, oral presentations, posters, art exhibits, feature-length trans-themed film Two4One, panel discussion with founders of trans activism and research.
The Moving Trans History Forward: From Generation to Generation conference is taking place at the University of Victoria March 22-25, 2018.