A British group has launched a campaign to create a new national museum, Queer Britain, that would celebrate London’s LGBTQ heritage. Joe Galliano, a former editor at the Gay Times, is leading the charge.
“It is a necessary and long overdue resource,” Galliano told The Guardian. “We don’t underestimate the challenge, but artefacts and people’s stories are being lost every day and we need to save them. Already many of the people–inevitably mainly men–who directly experienced the situation before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967, are no longer with us.”
Galliano is pushing for Queer Britain: The LGBTQ Museum to become “a bricks and mortar museum with an innovative digital presence and a strong educational remit.” The official site says the museum would “feature objects and records from the world’s of art, fashion, film, literature, TV, theatre, news, music, diaries, letters, photographs, legal records. Video/ audio interviews with queer people of all ages and backgrounds, activists, their friends, allies, families, observers and opponents.”
While national museums and institutions like the National Trust, British Museum, and British Library recognizing the anniversary of the decriminalization with exhibits and programming in 2017, Galliano wants queer people to commandeer their own narratives.
“It’s time we took up the challenge,” he says, “and told this story ourselves.”
Galliano is joined by board members and advisers like Lisa Power, the cofounder of Stonewall; Ian Mehrtens, the chief operating officer of London South Bank University; Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery; Lord Chris Smith, the first out gay MP; and Liz Bingham, a managing partner at Ernst and Young. The group has already scoped out a potential site for the museum in Southwark, South London, and hopes hopes to see Queer Britain open as a social center and visitor attraction by 2021.
“We see it as a place, for instance, where a young woman who has just come out to her parents could visit with them,” Galliano said, “and understand that this is a much deeper, richer history than most people realise.”
Galliano has a background in corporate fundraising, and thus knows the ins and outs of a project like this, acknowledging that it would take “many millions” to open and run the museum. The organizers are formally launching the fundraising campaign this week with an opening reception at Hotel Café Royal, a former favorite spot of Oscar Wilde’s that now has a lounge in his name. The spacemarks where the famed writer first met Lord Alfred Douglas, or “Bosie,” his gay lover that sparked Wilde’s contentious court case and eventual imprisonment in Reading. Galliano tells BuzzFeed that seeing the door of Wilde’sprison cell at last year’s Queer British Art exhibition at Tate Britain “winded”him.
“It’s so stark how that one thing becomes more than what it is by the weight of cultural [resonance],” he said.
After the launch event, Galliano and other organizers will “embark on a round trip of Britain to meet members of the community; to record stories to collate into a social, oral, queer history; and to identify items that could be included in the museum,” BuzzFeed reports.
“There’s no point lacking ambition around this because it needs to happen and it needs to be as exciting as the community it’s going to be about,” Galliano said. “This isn’t just a museum for LGBTQ people. This is for everyone.”
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