Throughout his lifetime, Jim Kepner obsessively collected material related to LGBTQ topics, issues, and individuals. Kepner began his collection in 1942 with the purchase of Radclyffe Hall’s book The Well of Loneliness. After moving to Los Angeles, Kepner attended his first meeting of the Mattachine Society, an early homophile organization founded in 1951.
Later that year, several members of the Mattachine, including educator and activist W. Dorr Legg, met to discuss creating a magazine for homosexuals. In November 1952 they formed ONE Inc. and in January 1953 published the first issue of ONE Magazine, which would become the first widely distributed publication for homosexuals in the United States. The magazine featured articles, editorials, short stories, book reviews, and letters to the editor.
Kepner, a frequent contributor to ONE Magazine, along with Legg and Dr. Thomas M. Merritt, went on to found the ONE Institute, the educational arm of ONE Inc. that conducted seminars and published a journal. While ONE Magazine ceased publication in 1967, under Legg’s guidance the Institute continued to advocate and educate, eventually issuing advanced degrees in “Homophile Studies.”
In 1971, Kepner named his collection, then housed in his rented Hollywood apartment, the Western Gay Archives. His archives would later move to a storefront space in Hollywood, becoming the National Gay Archives, and later, the International Gay & Lesbian Archives, to reflect the growing scope of the collections.
In 1994, Kepner’s archives merged with the ONE Institute, and in 2000 moved to its current location provided by the University of Southern California. The archives would later be renamed ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives. In October 2010, the collections at ONE Archives became a part of the USC Libraries system. Today, ONE Archives is the oldest continuing LGBTQ organization in the United States and the largest repository of LGBTQ materials in the world.