LGBT at the Smithsonian

From the December/January issue of the Advocate (LGBT news), “The Smithsonian’s Queer Collection: Our nation’s history is more fully explored in the new acquisition of objects of LGBT significance” by Stephanie Fairyington:

Over the summer, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., announced the expansion of its LGBT collection. “As cultural sensitivities and politics have changed,” curator Katherine Ott says, “now seemed like an opportune time to more aggressively, directly, and openly collect LGBT materials.”

[from Ott:] “Pick any topic in our nation’s past and there’s a gender and sexuality aspect to it, so these materials enable us to create a more accurate and balanced history of the United States.”

Shirt from the all-male, all-gay DC Cowboys Dance Company

Dating back to the 19th century, the archive includes historical treasures across several disciplines, including medicine and science, political history, culture and the arts, and the armed forces. Standout items include a tennis racket from transgender maverick Renée Richards, who famously won a New York Supreme Court case against the United States Tennis Association, ensuring that she and other trans players would be allowed to compete as their reassigned sex; protest signs from activist Frank Kameny, the co-founder, in 1961, of D.C.’s Mattachine Society, a gay advocacy group; the original transgender pride flag, designed by trans woman Monica Helms in 1999; a tennis dress worn by Grand Slam superstar Billie Jean King; and memorabilia from the set of Will and Grace, the groundbreaking TV show that helped bring gay awareness to households across the nation.

The collection also contains darker memories of LGBT history: documents from the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” era, HIV- and AIDS-related medical equipment and medications, even a copy of The Anita Bryant Story: The Survival of Our Nation’s Families and the Threat of Militant Homosexuality and ephemera from the virulent homophobe’s antigay campaign.

Back on 10/23/12, Philip M. Miner posted in the Huffington Post on “A Few of the Best LGBT History Archives in the U.S.” The top of the line is The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgender History Museum (San Francisco):

The GLBT Historical Society, founded in 1985, holds one of the largest collections of LGBT historical archives in the United States. Often referred to as San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” the society has offered exhibitions and programming since it was founded. With the establishment of the GLBT History Museum, a full-scale museum in the Castro District in January 2011, these public history activities were made a central part of the museum’s mission.

Every year dozens of researchers — authors, journalists, filmmakers, students and others — are welcomed to the reading room at the society’s archives near downtown San Francisco. The Castro District museum has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from around the world

The other sites are less extensive, have limited hours, or have restrictions on use. A brief list from Miner’s piece:

The Archive At The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Community Center (New York City); website

Gerber/Hart Library And Archives (Chicago); website

The Barbara Gittings Gay/Lesbian Collection At The Independence Branch Library (Philadelphia); website

Leather Archives And Museum (Chicago); website

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection In Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual And Transgender Studies (Minneapolis); website

ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives (Los Angeles); website

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