Sunday, 9 January 2011

GLBT History Museum Opening

Following my previous post on the wonderful GLBT Radio archive, I wanted to share details of another exciting devlopment.

The GLBT History Museum is set to open in San Francisco later this month. A project of the GLBT Historical Society, an archives and research center established in 1985, the new museum will be the first of its kind in the United States. The formal grand opening is set for Jan. 13, 2011 but it's already had a 'soft opening' so if you're in town, you should be able to check it out already.

Paul Boneberg, executive director of the Historical Society, has commented in a press release detailing the launch that: "The GLBT History Museum is in the heart of the Castro, a neighborhood visited not only by locals, but also by tens of thousands of tourists every year who come in search of queer culture. At our museum, they'll discover treasures from our archives that recount the diverse and fascinating stories of our lives. We have gone all out to create a museum as rich, diverse and surprising as the GLBT community itself. Whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight, visitors are sure to be moved, enlightened and entertained."

Located at 4127 18th St., the museum includes 1,600 square feet of gallery and program space built to the specifications of the Historical Society, with custom fixtures, lighting and multimedia installations reflecting professional standards. Funding has come from Levi's, the City of San Francisco, Castro district merchants, and numerous other sponsors and individual donors.

The museum will feature two debut exhibitions: In the main gallery, "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History," curated by historians Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesberg and Amy Sueyoshi; and in the front gallery, "Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives."

The grand opening of The GLBT History Museum will take place on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m and will be open to the public and free.

Regular hours for The GLBT History Museum will be Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5:00 p.m. Admission: $5.00; free for members. For more information, call 415-621-1107 or visit

My one reservation about the museum was that it would pull more 'straights' into the Castro and thus change the community into a bit of a zoo (I give you Manchester's Canal Street as Exhibit A). I was chatting over dinner to some friends who live in the Castro when I was last over and work on the museum had begun. Their view was that the Castro was suffering economically, and anything that kept the community afloat financially was to be welcomed. It will be interesting to see if they feel the same down the line. I have a feeling they will simply because of how the community has ownership over the museum and the general vibe of the place. I can see it supporting the Different Light Bookstore for example and further contribute to cafe and bar trade (although they all seem terribly busy when I visit - oh how I adore the homemade chicken vegetable soup at Cafe Flore)

I was lucky enough to visit the smaller temporary museum in the Castro with some of my students back in January 2009. That museum was small but wonderful. This new permanent museum looks fantastic and I'm sure will be a terrific addition to the Castro, San Francisco and to GLBT History. Unlike so many museum's, what was different about this museum was who was in the museum. Yes, there were tourists but there people for whom the museum contained fragments of their lives. Their contribution to the exhibition through the silent presence, or more often, through their willingness to chat and share stories made it a remarkable experience. One volunteer who had just popped in ended up chatting to my students and through the power of his story moved many of my small group to tears. It's easy to look at the photos on the Flickr channel and view this as a building with exciting objects. It's much more than that, it's a museum of lives. Please go along and support it if you can. I'll be checking it out in May.

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Gerard Koskovich said...

Thanks for helping spread the word, Chris. Folks who are interested in seeing more photos of the new museum can visit the following Facebook album (accessible even to folks who don't have a Facebook account):

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