UK Museums Celebrate LGBT History Month

Jessica Juckes, International Training Programme Assistant

February is LGBT History Month in the UK.

2017 was an important year for UK LGBT history, as it was the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. Museums across the country gave particular focus to programming and interpretation around LGBT history, including the British Museum, which curated a temporary exhibition for Room 69a entitled Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories, which ran from 11 May – 15 October 2017.

As such, our ITP 2017 summer programme fellows – as well as those who returned for the first ITP+ course in Temporary exhibitions and permanent displays – were able to explore in detail how museums in the UK are working to celebrate the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, improving visibility and representation.

Now we have settled into 2018, how are museums striving to keep up the momentum built during last year’s celebrations?

ITP programme partner museum Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is holding a conference on 7 March to examine this very question: Queer legacies: Transforming practice in museums and galleries post-2017. They will be asking:
‘How have the challenges and successes of museum projects over the past year changed ongoing practice in the sector? Have they helped to influence and change the ways in which museums and galleries look at and share their collections, or how the collaborate with diverse communities?’

The British Museum‘s highlighting of LGBT history is enjoying continued, sustainable visibility through a free, self-guided trail available at the Museum, and an online exhibition accessible here through Google Arts and Culture. There will also be a special event talk in the Museums’ Stevenson Lecture Theatre on 22 February: Exploring LGBTQ Histories at the British Museum.

Many other ITP-connected museums are celebrating LGBT History Month 2018 with interesting and innovative programming. Here are some examples:

Fitzwilliam Museum Queer Stories
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Queer Stories in the Museum
Led by V&A ambassador and founder of the V&A‘s award-winning volunteer-led LGBTQ tours, Dan Vo.
7 February

People’s History Museum, Manchester
OUTing the Past, Manchester
As the Manchester HUB for the nationwide LGBT+ history festival, the People’s History Museum is putting on a radical late with talks, discussions, tours, theatre and music, including ‘Sapphic Suffragettes: the key role of lesbians in the fight for votes for women.’
8 February

Photograph © Lee Price
The House of Kings and Queens
Documentary photographer Lee Price explores life as a member of the LGBT+ community in Sierra Leone.
Until 15 April

M Shed, Bristol
Outing the Past
‘A variety of speakers and stalls will showcase the achievements of local LGBT people, while performer Tom Marshman will be unveiling his new LGBT audio guide to M Shed.’
10 February


The Black Cap 1965-2015, c. Rafael Pereira do Rego, 2017
Museum of London

The London Salon: Queer Night Scenes
‘Conversations and provocations on queer space in the city, past, present and future.’
13 February

Scotland Street School Museum, Glasgow
Drag School
‘Learn how to serve, shade, contour and more [and] find your inner realness.’
17 February

National Army Museum
National Army Museum, London

LGBTQ+ Experiences in the Army
‘Eighteen years ago the ban on gay and lesbian citizens serving in the army was lifted. We’ve partnered with the Army LGBT Forum to bring together a panel of serving and veteran LGBTQ+ personnel to speak about their army experiences.’
21 February

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Objects of Desire
‘Join Egyptologist John J. Johnson (IoA) and special guests who will discuss their chosen objects from the Petrie Museum’s collection in relation to their work and research that tell us something about the concepts of desire both modern and ancient.’
22 February

Party at the Pitt
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Party at the Pitt: An LGBT History Month Celebration
‘Expect live performances, pop-up exhibitions, micro-talks and interactive activities.’
24 February

Coming Out Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity
Opened in December 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, the exhibition features artists including Grayson Perry, Gillian Wearing, David Hockney, Sunil Gupta, Zanele Muholi.
Until 15 April