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Finding Aid to the Peter Adair Papers, 1973-1986 GLC 70
GLC 70  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Conservation Note
  • Biographical note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Peter Adair Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1973-1986
    Date (bulk): 1974-1979
    Collection Identifier: GLC 70
    Creator: Adair, Peter, 1944-1996
    Physical Description: 79 cubic foot boxes, 31 boxes of various sizes (max. 16-inches x 16-inches x 3-inches) (110.0 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94102
    (415) 557-4400
    Abstract: The bulk of the collection centers on the documentary film Word Is Out: stories of some of our lives (1977), a ground-breaking exploration of the lives of 26 gay men and women. A small portion of the collection concerns The AIDS Show: artists involved with death and survival (1986), a production of Peter Adair and Rob Epstein's with Theatre Rhinoceros.
    Physical Location: The majority of the collection is stored onsite. Boxes 23, 27, 29/1, 29/2, 40, and 45-54 are stored at UCLA.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Significant portions of the original film and sound footage found in Series 3 were restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archives, and are still maintained there. These boxes are noted in the container list.
    The library does not have equipment to review original film and sound footage found in Series 3. As these materials must be reviewed outside the library, access requires the approval of the City Archivist.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright interest in Word Is Out is held by The San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Peter Adair Papers (GLC 70), LGBTQIA Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    The Peter Adair Papers were bequeathed to The San Francisco Public Library by Peter Adair in 1996. 3 boxes of additional material were received in 1999.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Some metal staples remain.
    The pre-interview videotapes were transferred from 1/2-inch open reels to VHS and 3/4-inch masters in 1991. Significant portions of the original film and sound elements were restored from 2007-2009 by UCLA Film & Television Archives in collaboration with the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation. Restoration funded by the David Bohnett Foundation with support from The Andrew J. Kuehn, Jr. Foundation and the members of Outfest. The restored version and many original film and sound elements are at UCLA.
    Between 2014-2015, 9 videocassette tapes were transferred to digital format onto 6 discs. The tapes are audition, interview, and master footage from Series 4. The AIDS Show: Leland Moss 2nd interview (3 tapes onto 1 disc); Leland Moss audition reel (1 tape onto 1 disc); Leland reel 15 (1 tape onto 1 disc); Shanti (2 tapes onto 1 disc); The AIDS Show Doc Footage Master x89 (1 tape onto 1 disc); and, The AIDS Show Master x83 (1 tape onto 1 disc).

    Biographical note

    Peter Adair was a San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker. He was born in Santa Monica, California in 1944. His father, John Adair, was an anthropologist who studied the Zuni and Navajo, and his mother, Casey, was a housewife who edited John's works and the New Mexico Quarterly, a literary journal. They gave Peter a film camera on his high school graduation and sparked a life-long interest in documentary filmmaking.
    Adair is best known for Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives: Conversations with 26 Gay Men and Women. This film was made by Adair with the Mariposa Film Group over several years from 1974-1977. In the film gay men and lesbians from different cultures, eras and walks of life discuss homosexuality and how it is perceived, by themselves and by society, in an effort to increase tolerance and understanding.
    In 1978 Nancy Adair, Peter's younger sister, co-authored Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives with their mother Casey. The Mariposa Film Group was Peter Adair, Nancy Adair, Robert Epstein, Veronica Selver, Andrew Brown, and Lucy Massie Phenix. Veronica Selver and Lucy Massie Phenix have continued to work in the documentary film genre. And Rob Epstein is probably the best known of the Group for his critically acclaimed documentaries The Times of Harvey Milk, Common Threads, and Paragraph 175 among others.
    In 1986 Adair and Epstein co-produced and co-directed The AIDS show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival. This 57 minute film deals with the impact of AIDS on the gay community, and presents excerpts from Theatre Rhinoceros' production of The AIDS Show, which dramatizes the emotional effect of the disease on patients, their lovers, friends and families. The film includes interviews with the show's creators and performers. In 1988, Peter Adair tested positive for AIDS. He died of complications due to AIDS on June 27, 1996.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection contains correspondence, administrative files, transcripts, clippings and ephemera, film and sound footage, and videotapes. The majority of the collection centers on the documentary film Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives (1977), a ground-breaking exploration of the lives of 26 gay men and women. An early working title for the film was Who Are We? and there are occasional references to that title or its acronym WAW. A much smaller portion of the collection concerns The AIDS Show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival (1986), a production of Peter Adair and Rob Epstein's with Theatre Rhinoceros.


    The material is arranged into 4 series: Series 1. Word Is Out Files; Series 2. Word is Out Pre-interviews (VHS/master copies); Series 3. Word Is Out Original Film and Sound Elements; and Series 4. The AIDS Show.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Adair Films.
    Adair, Casey
    Adair, Nancy
    Adair, Peter, 1944-1996--Archives
    Epstein, Robert
    Mariposa Film Group.
    Theatre Rhinoceros (San Francisco, Calif.).
    AIDS (Disease)--Patients--Family relationships
    AIDS (Disease)--Psychological aspects
    Documentary films.
    Gay men--United States--Interviews
    Gays--United States--Interviews
    Homosexuality--United States.
    Lesbians--United States--Interviews