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Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Papers

Identifier: Tretter-158

Scope and Content

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter papers (1925-2013) are composed of clippings, newsletters, personal papers, correspondence, visual materials, and ephemera. Coverage is given to subjects connected to the GLBT community, with the Twin Cities GLBT community heavily represented. National and International documentation of GLBT events, activism, news, and efforts to increase GLBT awareness are present.

Series 1: Personal and Biographical – Contains papers pertaining to Jean’s personal life. Personal writing from journals, noted, memos, and speech or letter drafts; Academic records from time spent at the University; Medical and Financial records; museum and gallery souvenirs, event programs and flyers; travel documents; information on personal collecting; and visual and audiovisual materials.

Series 2: Correspondence - included are letters from individuals friends, family, and colleagues; circulars from affiliated organizations; personal emails; and letters from Jean to others. Interesting correspondence from radical librarian Sanford Berman and numerous letters to editors and political figures are present.

Series 3: Professional – papers from affiliated organizations and activism efforts including Pride committee materials, and DFL/Political Planning Committee materials. Also included are military records, documentation of time spent as the radio host Night Rivers for KFAI’s show of the same name. University of Minnesota materials documenting the Schochet Center, Lavender Graduation, Queer Student Cultural Council, and general collection building documents are represented. Documentation of involvement with the Lake Owasso, a residential treatment facility for adults with developmental disabilities, is in supply. There are materials promoting GLBT activism in the Twin Cities and documentation of involvement with the Gay Games.

Series 4: Organizations – Newsletters from various organizations, mostly GLBT, across the country; brochures, circulars, and non-event related flyers promoting involvement are recorded. PFLAG, HRC, GLCAC, Philanthrofund, and Outfront informational materials are represented.

Series 5: Subject Files - contains articles regarding GLBT organizations, initiatives, and specific people and places relevant to the GLBT community beyond Minnesota. These materials are, generally, more focused on national and international GLBT community activism and issues. Also included are things of particular interest to Jean such as Gays in the military and religion/spirituality in the GLBT community.

Series 6: Ephemera – Contains realia, magnets, memorabilia, plastic bags, collage, ashtray, stickers, greeting cards, business cards, notecards, membership cards, and name badges.

Series 7: Audio Visual – Contains VHS, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, digital audio tapes, and materials used for a radio show.

Series 8: Visual Materials – Contains framed art, photo albums, photographs, posters, clippings, flyers and circulars, certificates, calendars, and original artwork.


  • Creation: 1925-2013, undated


Language of Materials

Multiple languages

Language of Materials

Collection material in English, German, Cambodian, and Farsi.

Restrictions on Access

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

Please contact staff regarding copyright status of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code).

Biographical Sketch or Historical Note

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter was born in 1946 and grew up in Little Falls, MN. Although he was aware of his orientation from an early age Tretter avoided coming out until after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Tretter attended the University of Minnesota following service in Vietnam as a decorated linguist. He pursued studies in social and cultural anthropology, but his university career was cut short due to lack of institutional support. After leaving the University of Minnesota Tretter took it upon himself to study Gay and Lesbian history, and correspondingly began collecting the thousands of items represented in his collection. Jean-Nickolaus Tretter was actively involved in the first Twin Cities Pride festival in 1972. In the 90’s Tretter was named the Twin Cities official Pride historian for the Pride Festival he helped conceive. In the 1980’s Tretter found there was a troubling gap in the histories of gay and lesbian Minnesotans. He decided to devote his life to resurfacing vanishing history for the GLBT community. Tretter used his experience as a member of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Archives to begin curating his own collection documenting Minnesota’s Gay and Lesbian history. Nearly twenty years later Tretter’s collection had grown to unmanageable proportions and was filling his apartment. In 2000 Tretter donated his living collection to the University of Minnesota, and worked as a staff member for the collection, where he was a valuable resource for students researching Gay and Lesbian Studies. He stayed on as staff until 2011, and continues to serve on the advisory board for the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection.


58 boxes (71.7 cubic feet)


The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter papers include biographical and personal papers, correspondence, professional records, ephemera, audio visual, and visual materials.

Source of acquisition

The Jean-Nickalous Tretter Collection was donated to the University of Minnesota in 2000 by Jean-Nickalous Tretter.

Related Materials

Tretter Collection Administrative Records, 1982-2015

"Faces of Tretter" Event Records, 2007-2009

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Amanda Wick, Teresa Tjepkes, Andrea Hoff, Tyler Gardner, and Jennifer Shaw as part of a project financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter papers, 1925-2013
Jennifer Shaw
March 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Jean Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies Collecting Area