The GLBT Historical Society (GLBTHS), based in San Francisco, has presented GLBT history exhibits at its headquarters at 657 Mission Street and at a storefront at 499 Castro Street—one of which, featuring memorabilia of Harvey Milk, Imperial Court System Founder Empress I José Sarria, Daughters of Bilitis and the Ladder Founders Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and singer Sylvester, was considered in Q News early in 2009—but on January 13, the Society made history by opening the first full-fledged GLBT History Museum in the United States and just the second such museum in the world, the other being located in Berlin, Germany.
The new museum, featuring 1,600 square feet of gallery and program space, is located at 4127 18th Street, in the Castro neighborhood. Its first exhibits are, in the main gallery, “Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History,” on display through December and curated by GLBTHS founding member Gerald Koskovich, Sonoma State University Assistant Professor Don Romesburg, and San Francisco State University Associate Professor Amy Sueyoshi, and, in the front gallery, “Great Collections from the GLBT Historical Society Archives,” on display through May and curated by GLBTHS Executive Director Paul Boneburg. The former “offers a kaleidoscopic view of nearly a century of queer experience in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” and looks at politics, drag, leather, bars and baths, the military, AIDS, and other aspects of GLBT life and history. The latter considers the GLBTHS, the so-called “queer Smithsonian,” itself, and “offers an introduction to the collections by displaying examples from a number of classes of materials the society has gathered during its first quarter-century,” and includes posters, film, video, ephemera, periodicals, and photographs.
“A quarter century after the founding of the GLBT Historical Society, we’re proud to open a museum to showcase our community’s history,” said Boneberg. “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 reflect fascinating stories spanning nearly a century of GLBT life. 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.”
The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5, free for members, and free for everyone on the first Wednesday of each month. For further information, visit www.glbthistory.org or telephone 415/621-1107.