US LGBTQ + Museum arrives in New York City’s oldest museum as part of expansion

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The oldest museum in New York will soon expand to include a museum dedicated to LGBTQ history.

Representatives of the New-York Historical Society, established in 1804, announced earlier this month that the museum will expand by 70,000 square feet to include space for the American LGBTQ + museum.

The new museum is slated to open in 2024 – although it has already started hosting digital programming – and will be New York City’s first museum dedicated to global, national and local LGBTQ history and culture. Museum officials hope to start hosting physical exhibits next year, in partnership with the Historical Society and other cultural institutions in the city, according to Richard Burns, chairman of the board of the American LGBTQ + museum.

Richard Burns, Chairman of the Board of the American LGBTQ + Museum.Courtesy of Richard Burns

Through exhibits, academic contributions, public programming, and collaborations with other LGBTQ institutions, the museum will aim to act as a ‘school for activists’ by highlighting’ the lives of queer people who do not not usually reflected in our cultural institutions today, ”Burns mentioned. This means highlighting the stories of those who have lived through decades of LGBTQ struggles, activists who are currently pushing to change laws for LGBTQ people, and transgender youth targeted by bills in state houses across the country. country, he added.

“These stories need to be told,” he said. “We all need to understand the impact of public policy and culture on the lives of the people who live here. “

Burns, a longtime executive in nonprofit groups who ran Manhattan’s LGBTQ Community Center for two decades, and a group of fellow gay advocates began meeting “in people’s living rooms” in early 1980’s. 2017, he said, to start thinking about how to make their dream of an LGBTQ museum come true. While the idea for the museum had already filtered through activists for years before these meetings began, it was about the multitude of court cases calling for religious exemptions for businesses and organizations that did not want to serve the people. LGBTQ people following the landmark Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015, prompted them to move forward about four years ago, Burns said.

“This political context prompted us to say, ‘We need to record and present the history of our movement and the lives of LGBT people, and highlight both the discrimination and suffering of vulnerable people, but also resilience, courage and 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 organize focus groups in English and Spanish with LGBTQ people in New York’s five boroughs, and it also commissioned a survey that was completed by more than 3,200 LGBTQ people. people nationwide.

These efforts have 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, their stories and confirms that we exist,” Burns said, adding that programming will be produced from intersectional perspectives, recognizing the ways in which gender, sexual orientation, race and nationality have a different impact on the lived experiences of LGBTQ people.

The museum will also offer a mix of interactive events and more traditional programming, like exhibits, to attract a wider range of visitors, he added.

“What we hope is to experiment with approaches to a museum so that people feel like they belong there, that they feel welcome – and that could require many types of approaches,” he said. Burns explained.

Cross section of the New-York Historical Society expansion project.Robert AM Stern Architects

The American LGBTQ + museum has received funding from individuals and foundations, and it continues to raise funds 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 for the historic society’s expansion project, which will also house classrooms, areas study and storage space in a now vacant lot – which the organization has owned since 1937 – next to his Upper West Side home at Central Park West and 77th Street.

New York’s rich LGBTQ history, including the iconic Stonewall uprising in 1969, makes it the perfect home for the future cultural institution, Burns added.

“Much of our movement took place in New York,” 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 metropolitan area with the largest LGBTQ population in the country – and is the # 1 destination for LGBTQ + American travelers, according to data collected by the museum from from the travel agency NYC & Compagnie.

The museum will be one of many cultural initiatives dedicated to shedding light on LGBTQ history: Burns nominated the Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, and the Gay Museum in Berlin as institutions doing similar work, as well as The Manhattan LGBT Community Center National History Archives and the Brooklyn Lesbian History Archives. The American LGBTQ + Museum also intends to showcase the stories collected by queer oral history projects, including The Generations Project and I’m From Driftwood, according to Burns.

“It’s our vision, our dream, our goal to collaborate in all of these efforts and provide a showcase for the work they do,” he said. “We’re part of a movement, and part of our mission is to provide a platform for all of these other queer history projects that are at different stages of development.”

The future home of the new museum within New York’s oldest museum will also allow a special kind of collaboration, according to New-York Historical Society President and CEO Louise Mirrer, who added that the initiative illustrates the need. continues to revisit historical narratives and center stories that have been otherwise 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 a story that must be recorded and preserved for future generations. What’s exciting is that New York’s oldest museum is at the forefront of securing a future for history.

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