Lisa Cohen

General Information


Executive Director  - Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archiv

Director and Archivist  - PNLA

Executive Director  - Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives

PNLA Executive Director  - Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives


Founder  - PNLA

Founder  - Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives

Recent News  

"I really want to see the archives become not only a place to hold our communities' treasures and preserve them for the future," said Lisa Cohen, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives. by Liz Latham - Special to the SGN The SGN sat down with Lisa Cohen, Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archiv more

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So, let's take a look at why the judges chose Lisa Cohen, the Council of State Archivists, Brenda Gunn, and Mark Matienzo as excellent examples of "people or organizations in the United States who are innovative, creative, and making a difference in the archival profession."
Lisa Cohen, is the director as well as the founding force behind the Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives. Reading her "Letter from the Director," as well as the strong statement of support from her nominator, we saw someone with a passion for documenting and preserving the history of her community and the drive to make her dream a reality. It's been a long road for Lisa (12 years in fact)-who knew she had to get the right education and professional training to build a truly successful archival program. After founding the PNLA in 2006 she has, as her nominator put it, "shaped the Archives to be much more than an archival operation. Lisa creates a visual presence for the archives in the community-with info tables at Seattle's LGBT film festival and Seattle's Pride Festival. She has plans for the Archives to become less Seattle-centric by reaching out to smaller cities in Washington state as well as connecting with people in Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and British Columbia. This September, Lisa will be in Vancouver, BC giving an archives how-to-workshop at the BOLD conference. Recently Lisa has negotiated a home for the archives at the Washington State Historical Society, where volunteers will soon start processing the 95 cubic feet of materials that have been donated so far. Having an institutional home will enable the PNLA to start accepting new donations as soon as the volunteers have gotten through the backlog, and we are sure Lisa will continue to make the Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives a model for grassroots community-based archives. Congratulations, Lisa!

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Lisa Cohen is the Director and Archivist of the Pacific Northwest Lesbian Archives (, and her voice bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about the project she has begun to chronicle the history of lesbians in our region.
"I know this is my life's work," she explains. "The idea started about 12 years ago when I was attending the Womyn's Music Festival in Michigan. I decided to collect and preserve our community's history, as is being done in other cities. Lesbians are an important social group, and we deserve to have our stories told, our history celebrated." The PNLA provides a safe place for documents, business records and personal memorabilia, much of which is donated by individuals, small businesses and social organizations. Cohen says that the project welcomes donations of audiovisual material, periodicals, pamphlets, clothing, art, protest signs, journals and written works - anything pertaining to the lesbian experience in the Pacific Northwest. "In that way, we differ from other lesbian archives," Cohen says. "I wanted to collect, display and make available to the public items that are relevant to our experience in our region. The PNLA can't document the whole world, but we can put the word out and do the work for our community. Future generations are going to want to know your story. Let me help tell it." Cohen encourages any lesbian organization or club to consider allowing the archives to house their material. "People are astounded that we exist; they become really excited to think that there is now a place for their documents and records," she states. "As a social group, we want to maintain ownership of our stories - and that's why my vision includes a separate location for our information rather than its inclusion in another organization." In operation for more than a year, Cohen's vision now includes a dedicated board of directors and a five-year plan for a "state-of-the-art" building which will house not only documents and records, but also provide space for research and meetings. Women who identify as lesbian traditionally don't have children, Cohen says, and so the question, 'Who's going to tell my story?' becomes significant as women age. "I'm getting lots of material from women between the ages of 50-70," she says. These four women - Lisa, Delores, Emily and Joyce - join countless others around the Pacific Northwest who are striving to make our shared world a little path at a time.

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