No jacket required
Uncovering the history of nudism at the American Nudist Research Library in Kissimmee
Published: September 29, 2011
American Nudist Research Library
2950 Sun Cove Drive
Wednesday-Saturday 1-4 p.m.
“Do you zing to the ying? Is your tang in the yang symbol?” This is the kind of philosophical quandary best considered on a sunny day with a good breeze. It’s also best considered without pants. Because the only place you’re likely to find these questions posed is in the pages of an issue of Nude Living magazine from 1963. And the most likely place for you to find a copy of that publication is at the American Nudist Research Library at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort & Spa in Kissimmee.
The ANRL is an extensive collection of materials that captures the history of the “social nudist movement in North America.” How extensive is the collection? When asked if anything is missing, current ANRL president Edward Waller doesn’t miss a beat: “We’re looking for the first newsletter of the ASA (American Sunbathing Association),” he says, opening a bound volume revealing that, indeed, the records start at the second issue of the newsletter for that organization, which was founded in 1931.
That’s the kind of attention to ephemera you’ll find in the ANRL’s cozy, air-conditioned reading room. The library was started in 1979, when Donald Johnson, whom the world knew as mystery author John Ball, writer of In the Heat of the Night, donated his private collection of naturist literature. The collection, first housed in Cypress Cove’s administrative offices, grew as members learned of it and contributed their own accumulations. Eventually, the library was moved into its own building next to the resort’s pool. The building has doubled in size during the last 15 years, and today the ANRL has more than 500 books and 7,000 magazines (a cursory perusal suggests that 60 percent of their titles contain the word “Sun”).
Visitors are welcome, but don’t come here looking for “nudie” magazines. These are pieces of nudist literature that explore the naturist lifestyle – oneness with nature, positive body image, respect for the unadorned form, lessening of censorship – with the same kind of zeal and well-researched op-eds you’d find in any modern vegan or hiking publication. They focus on landmark court cases and historical curiosities. Since the nonprofit operation expands its collection only through donations, Waller admits that sometimes works come through that don’t quite fit in, and they have to be sorted out.
“A lot of it is the way they’re shot,” Waller says of material that blurs the lines. One way to tell if something is really nudist literature, he says, is that photos will actually be blurred, particularly around the genitals. Many naturist magazines employed what was known as “the fog” to keep images from slipping into obscenity.
> Email T.I. Fraser