Richard Sandell speaking at the Hold that thought session

Museums have a part to play in challenging prejudice

Patrick Steel, 12.11.2013
LGBT stories should be visible in museums
Richard Sandell, professor of museum studies at the University of Leicester, told delegates at the Museums Association Conference and Exhibition 2013 that “visibility matters” for lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) narratives in museums.

Speaking at the Emotional museum: hold that thought session, he said: “Portrayals affect LGBT lives. Rates of suicide for LGBT youth are consistently higher and museums not blameless. [The sector] has a part to play in creating an environment in which prejudice can be challenged. The continuing exclusion of the LGBT experience has enormous consequences for everybody.”

Gary Everett, the artistic director of Homotopia, an organisation which is working in partnership with National Museums Liverpool to bring out LGBT stories in its museums, agreed: “Museums have an important role, not to propagandise, but to let people see their role [in the narrative].”

Ann Bukantas, head of fine art at the Walker Gallery, said: “For young LGBT people we want The Walker to be a safe and welcoming place.

“Working with Homotopia to achieve this we are achieving work of mutual benefit. We are still finding our way, but we are trying to be more proactive and consistent, from programming though to the language we use.”

Despite some negative comments, the museum has had great success with this strategy already, citing an exhibition featuring performance artist Darren Pritchard that was described by one reviewer as “so moving it’s hard not to weep”.


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