Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories at the British Museum

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Some members of the SOUK committee were invited to the British Museum for the opening of their new exhibition ‘Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories’. This show is part of a season looking at LGBTQ histories, which also includes a display of David Hockney’s etchings based on Cavafy’s poems. Schools OUT UK chair and CEO had advised the BM on the exhibition.

BM2To launch the exhibition was guest speaker Stephen Fry. He spoke about his own identity and the use of labels. He also touched on the debate of whether labels are a useful tool for our modern, often intricate, identities. What was concluded however, was that showing museum objects’ LGBTQ narratives, even if labels are not used, can reveal their importance in our community’s history and the wider world. He also acknowledged the hard work which has been done over the years, in order for us to have an exhibition like this and in such a prestigious establishment as the British Museum!

The exhibition itself is packed into a small room, but one full of life. Covering a large time period and numerous cultures, from Hadrian and Antinous to the Sex Offences Act of 1967, which of course we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of this year. Here there is a collection of badges from various campaigning groups and activists fighting for equality- including one our own LGBTHM badges!

BM3The exhibition continues round the museum, with the curators providing a trail of other objects of interest, with LGBTQ histories, in their permanent displays. By doing this, they have been integrated into the museum’s main collections, giving a chance for pre-existing objects to be viewed from a new perspective: one reflecting an LGBTQ history or identity. We have seen the success of this with the Queer Tours from the V&A and the British Museum have certainly followed suit. The exhibition was also curated in collaboration with the Tate; perhaps we will be seeing more museums using this opportunity for new curation!

The exhibit is free to the public and is running 11 May – 15 October 2017.

There is also online exhibition here https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/JgLyidm3MO04JwBM4
All photos courtesy of Zefrographica