On October 8, 2009, 160 films were delivered to the University of Minnesota Libraries for the new Sexual Health Library. Former PHS media coordinator, John Armour, has lovingly cared for these films for years and has now returned them to the University.
The films are mostly 16 mm and had been used for educational purposes, most notably in the Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) workshops facilitated by PHS. Armour started working with PHS in 1973 as a SAR small group facilitator on the topic of disabilities. He went on to work in the general SAR, as well as specialized SAR trainings on both GLBT sexuality and sexual offenses. Armour also contributed to the Week of Enrichment, a SAR inspired training for pastors and church personnel. In six years he went from a small group facilitator to a large group co-leader, and then to technician in the media booth. From 1978 - 1988 Armour worked at PHS as the media coordinator. At the height of SAR trainings, PHS was offering approximately 150 one-day to one-week workshops per year throughout Minnesota and around the country.
SAR workshops rely heavily on film, audio recordings, and photos to elicit personal attitudes and values about sex from participants. The media enables participants to hear, to see, and to reflect on real-life experiences in a technique designed to inspire discussion on various issues. Armour describes the process by saying, "Dr. Theodore Cole, physiatrist and main founder of the Disability and Sexuality section of PHS said many times in speaking to colleagues that 'you can describe a hamburger in many ways but you really don't know what it is until you taste one.'" Armour continued, "The films were all made by people in 'real' relationships. People with disabilities, older folks, GLBT folks; all of whom wanted to share their intimate stories in image and spoken word to encourage and educate others. Many were made at the University or with advice from faculty and staff and were not made for the commercial market, but rather to be used by patients and health professionals. These films and the live panels of people giving testimonials and honestly answering questions about sex and sexuality were the true power of SAR and the workshops, as their authenticity and honesty could not be disputed."
It is Armour's hope that returning the films to the University Libraries will help to preserve the films and possibly help to get some of the titles converted to a digital format. He said, "I am encouraged that the films will be archived and made accessible to students and professionals, perhaps providing encouragement, inspiration, and incentive to find new ways to help people look at themselves in light of other's experience."
Armour captions and subtitles media for hearing-impaired individuals as well as other language work. He is also a musician and has written a series of songs with a northern, sled dog theme. He lives in St Paul, MN, with Barb, his wife of 40 years, and their Siberian Huskies, Laci, Sweetie Pea, and Penny. Armour said, "I will always be extremely thankful for my days at PHS. I was able to get deeply in touch with myself and was privileged to watch as many others did also."
In March 2009 the Tawani Foundation awarded PHS a grant in the amount of $50,000 to help fund the early development of a Sexual Health Library at the University, with the opportunity of additional support up to $250,000 through a five-year matching grant challenge. The library will be a vital tool for sexual health education and research. Sexuality research is expanding in scope and is increasingly interdisciplinary in nature. The Sexual Health Library project complements the advancement of the sexual health field by increasing collaboration among researchers and promoting the sharing of materials that were previously inaccessible beyond local audiences. PHS will work in collaboration with the Academic Health Center and University Libraries to create a new information infrastructure around the sexuality materials currently held at the University and to create an online research portal connecting sexuality institutes, libraries, and researchers across the United States and the world. PHS will also formally archive materials from the organization's 40-year history, including some donation of private collections.
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