New York’s eldest museum will soon expand with a museum dedicated to LGBTQ history.
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The new museum is planned to open its doors in 2024, although that has already happened started hosting digital programs – becoming the first museum in New York City dedicated to global, national and local LGBTQ history and culture. According to Richard Burns, president of the American LGBTQ+ Museum, museum leaders hope to begin hosting physical exhibits next year, in partnership with the Historical Society and other cultural institutions in the city.
Through exhibits, contributions from scholars, public programming, and collaborations with other LGBTQ institutions, the museum aims to act as a “school for activists” by highlighting “the lives of queer people who are not reflected in our cultural institutions today.” . said. That means spotlighting the stories of those who have lived through decades of LGBTQ struggles, activists currently pushing to change laws for LGBTQ people, and transgender youth who target of bills in state houses across the country, he added.
“Those stories need to be told,” he says. “We all need to understand the impact of government policies and culture on the lives of the people who live here.”
Burns, a longtime director of nonprofits who ran Manhattan’s LGBTQ community center for two decades, and a group of fellow queer lawyers began meeting “in people’s living rooms” in early 2017, he said, to think about how to make their dream of an LGBTQ museum a reality. While the idea for the museum had trickled down to activists for years before those meetings began, it was lawsuits seeking religious exemptions for businesses and organizations that didn’t want to serve LGBTQ people after the landmark Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage in 2015, which prompted them to move forward about four years ago, Burns said.
“That political context prompted us to say, ‘We need to capture and present the history of our movement and the lives of LGBT people, showing the discrimination and suffering of vulnerable people, as well as the resilience, courage and the determination to achieve equality and freedom and liberation,” he said.
To determine their approach to the museum and its programming, the founding council partnered with outside companies to conduct focus groups in English and Spanish with LGBTQ people in New York City’s five boroughs, and also commissioned a study that was completed by more than 3,200 LGBTQ people nationwide.
Those efforts made it clear that “culture can be a mirror, and people who feel invisible in the larger culture, they want a mirror that reflects their lives and their stories, affirming that we exist,” Burns said, adding that programming will are produced from intersectional perspectives, recognizing the ways in which gender, sexual orientation, race and nationality affect the life experiences of LGBTQ people in different ways.
The museum also offers a mix of interactive events and more traditional programming, such as exhibitions, to attract a wider audience, he added.
“What we hope is experimenting with approaches to a museum so that people feel like they really belong there, that they feel welcome – and that can require many different types of approaches,” explains Burns.
The American LGBTQ+ Museum has been funded by individuals and foundations, and it still is to collect money to hire its first executive director, he said. according to The New York Times, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and City Council last week allocated $35 million to the Historical Society’s expansion project, which will also house classrooms, study areas and storage space on a now vacant lot — which the organization has owned since 1937. – adjacent to the house on the Upper West Side at Central Park West and 77th Street.
New York City’s rich LGBTQ history, including its iconic 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, makes it the perfect home for the future cultural institution, Burns added.
“So much of our movement has happened in New York City,” he said. “We thought, ‘This is definitely the place for this museum.'”
Additionally, the city is home to approximately 756,000 LGBTQ adults — making it the metro area with the largest LGBTQ population in the country — and is the #1 destination for U.S. LGBTQ+ travelers, according to data picked up the museum at the tourism office NYC & Company.
The museum will be one of several cultural initiatives that shed light on LGBTQ history: Burns pointed out the pointed Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society and that of Berlin Gay Museum as institutions doing similar work, along with those of Manhattan National History Archives LGBT Community Center and the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn. The American LGBTQ+ Museum also plans to showcase the stories collected by queer oral history projects, including: The Generations Project and I’m from Driftwood, according to Burns.
“It is our vision, our dream, our goal to partner with all of these efforts and provide a showcase for the work they do,” he said. “We are part of a movement and part of our mission is to provide a platform for all these other queer history projects that are in different stages of development.”
The future home of the new museum in New York’s oldest museum will also allow for a special kind of collaboration, said Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. stories that would otherwise be overlooked.
“It underscores the fact that history is about agency — it’s not about a long dead past that no one can question,” she said. “This particular story of the American LGBTQ+ movement is one that must be captured and preserved for generations to come. The exciting thing about this is that New York’s oldest museum is leading the way in making sure that history has a future.”
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