Queering the Museum Project

Museum Pride: The Social Role of Museum in LGBTQ Advocacy

By: Erin Bailey

As many museum professionals already know the Alliance of American Museum (AAM) Annual Meeting is well underway and museum professionals from around the globe are nerding out about museums as you read this entry. This years’ theme, The Social Value of Museums; Inspiring Change, seeks to address the recent “technological, social, political, environmental and economic” changes that continue to move museums from being object-centered to visitor-centered. This theme has started and continued many conversations about how museums can improve the quality of visitors’ lives, social change, and the wellbeing of communities centering conversations at AAM around intersection of race, gender, class, sex, and sexuality. Traversing these topics through case studies, theory driven discussion, and interactive workshops, these conversations are happening in sessions, hallways, near charging stations, and even in the bathrooms. The atmosphere is charged with asking the hard questions, exploring new ideas, and advancing the dialogue.

This entry is highlighting Museum Pride: The Social Role of Museum in LGBTQ Advocacy, ONE of the MANY sessions that engage these intersections and earnestly seek to advance the conversation forward. According to AAM Museum Pride focuses on “achieving legal and social equity for LGBTQ persons extends beyond the work of activists and allies; immense, public, bipartisan support is growing worldwide. Several museums have readily partnered with LGBTQ organizations, becoming active participants in social change. Many museums, however, remain reluctant. Join us as four museums reflect on how and why they joined the LGBTQ dialogue, their stumbles and victories, and the self-discovery and organizational change along the way,” featuring the work of Joe E. Heimlich, Ph.D., Principal Researcher with the Lifelong Learning Group at COSI, Danielle Linzer, Director of Access and Community Programs, Whitney Museum of American Art, Megan Swanby Manager of Community Outreach and Access, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and Kate Tinworth, founder and Principal of ExposeYourMuseum, LLC, and me to talk about how difference museums are engaging LGBTQ communities. During this session we are determined to answer these questions to the fullest possibility but the conversation will never really be over.

  1. How did the LGBTQ outreach/engagement efforts start at your institution? What was the catalyst?
  2. What has been transformative and wonderful for your museum’s choice to engage in LGBTQ-focused partnerships, programs, and/or exhibits?
  3. What’s been hard, or what are the lessons learned you might share with museums considering LGBTQ-focused partnerships, programs, and/or exhibits?
  4. What are the commonalities in and across museums who choose to actively engaging with LGBT audiences/communities? What have heard from each other that’s interesting and how we learn from and build off of each other’s efforts?
  5. What work is yet to be done? As we look ahead, what do museums need to be thinking about and prioritizing as they engage in LGBTQ-focused partnerships, programs, and/or exhibits in the future?

In an effort to keep this conversation going and offer a take away we combed our libraries and hard drives to find all the resources available for professionals seeking to engage with these audiences. Below are the current resources and we hope you will use the comments section to share any that we missed. No really comment and help us start the conversation #queerAAM.

Books and Publications:

Queers Online: LGBT Digital Practices in Libraries, Archives, and Museums by Rachel Wexelbaum (2015)

Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites by Susan Ferentinos (2014) and read this entry from QTM.

Gender, Sexuality and Museums: A Routledge Reader by Amy K. Levin (2010)

Where is Queer?” Museums & Social Issues Vol. 3, N. 1, editors: John Fraser & Joe E. Heimlich (Spring 2008)

 Getting Intersectional in Museums by Nicole Robert, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April, 2014)

Displaying the Queer Past: Purpose, Publics, and Possibilities of the GLBT History by Gerard Koskovich, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 2014)

Affiliate Groups/Projects:

Social Justice Alliance from MuseumMuseum Association (UK) Tweet them at: @MuseumsAssoc and join the #SJAM conversation.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Alliance (LGBTQ Alliance) of the American Alliance of Museums Tweet them at: @AAM_LGBTQ

American Evaluation Association’s LGBT topic interest group (TIG)

the Incluseum Tweet them at @incluseum

Pop-up Museum of Queer History Tweet them at @queermuseum

And obviously Queering the Museum project, with more specific regional resources here, and most of QTM’s tweets come from @ebai206

SOME museum people who have presented on LGBT museum topics over past 3 years: (again fill the comment section with anyone not listed here. Lets give credit where credit us due)

Adrian Zongrone, EdVenture @boatkult
Timothy Hecox, OMSI
Kevin Seymour, COSI @ohiokms76
Adrienne Barnett, Expoloratorium
Ian Kerrigan, The National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Elissa Frankle, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum @museums365
Susan Ferentinos, public history consultant  @HistorySue
Ken Turino, Historic New England

We offer this as a start, please help us complete this list by emailing queeringthemuseumproject@gmail.com, comment below or tweet anyone of us. Here are our handles:
Megan: @nycArtSeen
Danielle: @bigdlinz
Kate: @exposyourmuseum
Me: @EBai206

If you’re considering putting in a session for next year, please do! The more discourse the more progress.