Me and my research

Charlotte Keenan, Issue 117/02, p63, 01.02.2017
Uncovering LGBT history
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act and the partial decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men. Museums and galleries across the country are planning events to mark this milestone, exploring historic and contemporary issues relevant to LGBT communities.

National Museums Liverpool (NML) has a legacy of LGBT-themed programming, such as the Hello Sailor! exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the Walker Art Gallery hosted its first LGBT-focused art show.

The impact of these events has been positive but temporary. We recognised a need to make permanent, visible changes for LGBT history and themes to be embedded in our displays and the histories we tell.

To address this, NML is researching its collections in the project Pride and Prejudice: Bringing Stories Out of the Closet. It is funded by the Museums Association’s Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and aims to uncover hidden LGBT histories. We address the sexuality of artists and sitters as well as highlighting significant moments of LGBT history to contextualise works.

The findings are online too and will inform a redisplay of the Walker’s permanent collections in April, including new interpretation and objects that haven’t been on show for decades.

I have also acquired new work using a New Collecting Award from the Art Fund. We have accessioned John Walter’s multimedia installation Alien Sex Club, a piece that addresses modern sexual health.

The work will be displayed later this year at the Walker as part of the Coming Out show, which also includes the gallery’s first accessioned performance piece where visitors can have a sexual health tarot card reading with Barbara Truvada.

Charlotte Keenan is the curator of British art at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool