How can museums better represent lesbian and gay audiences?
Recent changes to the Equality Act mean that publicly funded museums have a new obligation to represent the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in their displays.
Delegates at the Museums Association Conference and Exhibition 2011 in Brighton will have a chance to learn how Section 149 of the Equality Act, which came into force in April this year, affects their museums.
Protected characteristics under the act include sex, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment, and the act puts an onus on public authorities to "tackle prejudice and promote understanding" while taking steps to meet the needs of those who share a protected characteristic and encouraging them to participate in public life.
Publicly-funded museums have in the past been accused of shying away from presenting LGBT narratives, apart from notable exceptions like the National Portrait Gallery’s 2009 Gay Icons exhibition.
In a session chaired by Richard Sandell, head of museum studies at the University of Leicester, delegates will have a chance to explore how they can better collect, frame and interpret the lives of LGBT audiences.
The session will examine how Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) drew out LGBT narratives from its collection for its Queering the Museum exhibition, which closed earlier this year.
The museum reinterpreted its permanent features, such as a Jacob Epstein statue of Lucifer with the body of a man and the head of a woman, to reflect aspects of LGBT identity.
Curator and artist Matt Smith also incorporated green silk carnations, a typical symbol of gay identity in the 19th century, as a visual motif throughout the exhibition.
Smith, who is speaking at the session, said: "[The panel will provide] a one-stop-shop for museums facing the new challenges posed by the Equality Act and present creative ways of broadening their visitor base and reflecting wider diversity in their displays.
“I hope, during the discussion, delegates will air their concerns about how to tackle sexuality within their museums and help to provide advice.”
The session, entitled Nowhere to hide: how gay and lesbian representation in museums is affected by the Equality Act, takes place on Tuesday 4 October.
This week is the last chance for delegates to get an early bird discount - book before 31 July for significant savings.
For more information and to book your place, click here