This Rogers Park museum is a bit deceiving. On its website, the mission statement says it aims to preserve leather lifestyles, including but not limited to Gay and Lesbian communities, history, archives and memorabilia for education purposes (there's only one exhibit showing S&M among straight couples). If you think this might be a kinky date idea, be prepared to see a lot more of gay male erotica art and exhibits than heterosexual art and exhibits.
The Leather Archives and Museum's main gallery is located downstairs, accessed by walking through a 164-seat auditorium that showcases several paintings and artwork from Chicago's first leather bar, Gold Coast.
The gallery houses an exhibit case of S&M tools and a timeline of S&M history, which dates back to 1799, when the French king Henri III made his male attendants hit him with leather whips in his underwear. Photos from the winners of several International Mr. Leather contests deck the walls, and one exhibit outlines the rules for being a biker (never mix bronze with steel, always wear leather, never wear a sweater).
Leather enthusiasts will find some varieties of motorcycle jackets, leather vests, gloves and even a leather jock strap, but the artwork and photographs outweigh the leather items. For those curious, the museum's library is chock full of books on S&M and various tangents, including hazing and gay male soft core porn stories.
Centerstage Reviewer: Stephanie Sims