Dan Vo Dan Nouveau, ISKA Photography

Radical Changemaker Award 2018: Dan Vo, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

John Holt , 01.01.2019
Unearthing a treasure trove of LGBTQ stories
Dan Vo coordinates the LGBTQ tours at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, where he has volunteered since 2012. “The best feedback we can receive is from someone who had previously never visited because they did not think it would interest them,” he says. “Then they actually discover themselves reflected and represented many times over.  

“As a person of colour, unlocking a treasure trove of BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] LGBTQ stories has been particularly rewarding. Sometimes I get to see that magic moment of connection in visitors’ eyes.”  

Vo says the words of the museum’s first director, Henry Cole – “all of this, for all of us” – are at the heart of the volunteer team’s work. He is also proud of picking up the baton from pioneering figures such as Carl Winter, a former deputy keeper of the V&A and subsequently director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.  

“He was one of only three men who identified as homosexual to testify before the Wolfenden Committee in the 1950s for the decriminalisation of homosexuality,” says Vo. “I’m delighted the Fitzwilliam is one of three museums in Cambridge that has launched volunteer-led LGBTQ tours.  

“This tour is just one way to recognise the LGBTQ communities and individuals who form part of our rich collections across place, time and culture. It’s our way of telling them they are accepted, respected and celebrated.”  

Vo also undertakes his own tours of the country’s museums, spending last February – LGBT History Month – on the road promoting diversity, equality and inclusion as a Museums Association Transformer and a Stonewall BAME role model.  

“I’m heartened by the ways in which galleries, libraries, archives and museums are embedding the stories of LGBTQ people in their work,” says Vo. “The struggle for equality is an ongoing battle and the support of institutions is fundamental.   

“Radical change, however, always starts with the individual and it’s the stories of the remarkable people behind the objects that touch and connect us.”  

Find out how to apply for the 2019 Museums Change Lives Awards