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The American LGBTQ+ Museum breaks ground on new, permanent home

A rendering of the New York Historical Society's expansion project. Credit Alden Studios

The American LGBTQ+ Museum has begun work on a permanent expansion of the New York Historical Society Museum & Library building in Central Park West, which will become its home in 2024.

A ground-breaking ceremony held last week was attended by social justice activist and former tennis player, Billie Jean King – who also opened the Center for Women’s History at NY Historical Society in 2017 – NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and American LGBTQ+ Museum Chair Richard Burns.

First for the city

The new museum will span 70,000 sq ft and will be the city’s first museum dedicated to preserving, researching and sharing LGBTQ+ history and culture. It has been in the planning since 2017 and the push for a physical space is based on research, which revealed ‘urgency, support and excitement’ about the vision.

“Simply put: this is the biggest step we’ve ever taken toward realising our dream and opening the first museum in New York City dedicated to preserving and celebrating LGBTQ+ history and culture,” the museum said.

The organisers say that while other great institutions investigate, preserve, and tell their histories, they believe it is now time for a national LGBTQ+ museum.

Especially urgent

“LGBTQ history is especially urgent because our communities have emerged from denial, repression, and invisibility into acceptance, pride and full societal participation,” said Urvashi Vaid, Attorney, Writer, Activist and Secretary and Trustee of the American LGBTQ+ Museum. “This Museum helps forge the future by documenting our past.”

The museum says the new space will allow visitors to encounter vital historical objects and will embrace immersive and interactive media. It will include an active public space along with galleries, programming and contemplative spaces.

Exhibitions will include a permanent or core content where visitors will discover persistent themes in the LGBTQ+ history. However, it says the exhibitions will be designed so that the elements can be easily revised or reconfigured  and visitors can explore a wide range of evolving topics and themes over time.

The exhibitions will also reflect the museum’s research into the needs, desires, and interests of queer communities, while also drawing upon the expertise of LGBTQ+ historians.

Visitors will be part of history

“The Museum will be a place where visitors can see themselves as part of history,” it says. “Our primary audience will be LGBTQ+ people: New Yorkers and visitors, adults and youth. This demographic includes at least 7.3m people, and is young, growing, and likely undercounted.

“And our fundamental goal is to serve people from all parts of the LGBTQ+ community—from all sexual orientations, gender identities, racial backgrounds, nationalities, and income levels.”

New-York Historical Society Museum & Library is the city’s oldest museum, founded in 1804, and Dr Louise Mirrer, president and CEO, said it was with great foresight that in 1937 its Trustees purchased the land adjacent to its current building: “Knowing that our growing collections and evolving programs for scholars, students, educators, and the public would someday need room to expand.”

The capital project is being made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, by Manhattan Borough President Gale A Brewer and by lead support from the New-York Historical Society’s Board of Trustees.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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