One of the biggest LGBTQ cultural organisations in the United States, the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, launched a brand new digital exhibition in October. The organisation, which has the largest set of LGBTQ archives and libraries in the southern state of Florida announced the start of ‘In Plain Sight’, a digital experience that is designed to highlight many of the most pivotal milestones and achievements in American LGBTQ history.
According to the LGBTQ organisation, In Plain Sight offers access to factual historic records from the past as well as much more up-to-date information about LGBTQ people. The digital exhibits are concerned with people who have come out – or made their sexuality known to others – across a range of different fields of professional work. The exhibition includes well over 800 digital entries. Each of them comes with a brief description of the subject matter as well as other digital capabilities. For example, virtual visitors to the archives will be able to zoom in on any entry they are interested in. Furthermore, it is possible to access a number of high-resolution digital images. The photos that are in the digital exhibition have been organised into ten distinct categories. This way, researchers and the general public alike can search in various ways. The categories chosen include AIDS and HIV, memorials and literature. Others include the arts, film and television, business, music, theatre and sports, among others.
The Stonewall National Museum and Archives said that it had set out to produce something that was ‘more than just an interactive display’. The creative team who produced the digital exhibit wanted to produce what they called ‘an engaging curriculum’ instead. For them, this meant providing opportunities for more in-depth education and the possibility of interacting with real material that had been drawn from the museum’s archival collection.
Over the course of recent years, researchers into gay studies and gay rights activists have looked increasingly closely at LGBTQ history in an effort to understand better where opposition to the LGTBQ movement has come from. Many people have worked to overcome the social stigma and prejudices that surround more diverse notions of sexuality. The Stonewall National Museum and Archives has proven itself to be a tremendous resource in this field of study. What In Plain Sight aims to do is to make many of the archives the organisation holds more available to everyone in a timeline format. It is hoped that this will spark further interest in this field of academia and of LGBTG history more generally.
“For years, an LGBTQ wall-mounted timeline – albeit a static one – became one of the museum’s most popular exhibits,” said Hunter O’Hanian, Stonewall’s Executive Director. He went on to say that the museum had wanted to expand the reach of that timeline to online audiences, especially at a time when visits to cultural institutions were restricted due to the pandemic. O’Hanian also said that the digitisation process presented a good opportunity to make the exhibit more inclusive with respect to gender and race. The updated timeline can now be accessed in person at the museum or via its online version.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.