The history of the Gay Rights Movement is woven into the fabric of New York City, from the Stonewall protests during the summer of 1969 to the HIV/AIDS activism of groups such as ACT UP throughout the eighties and nineties. Fittingly, The American LGBTQ+ Museum, first proposed in 2017, will finally find a home through a planned expansion of the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library. Once open, the new institution will host artifacts, posters, images, and other memorabilia showcasing one of the largest and hardest fought civil rights movements in American history.
Construction on the large-scale expansion of New-York Historical Society’s building located in Central Park West, which the organization first moved into all the way back in 1907, is set to kick off next year. Meanwhile, the official opening of the American LGBTQ+ Museum is tentatively scheduled for 2024. What goes into opening a new museum? Speaking to Time Out New York, Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, says the institution will reach out to the large network of LGBTQ organizations across the country in order to acquire noteworthy pieces of artistic and historical relevance. “Just news of the space has occasioned outreach from people who have collections,” Mirrer says.
The storied institution already has a host of material, gained primarily through LGBTQ-focused exhibitions it has staged over the years, exploring everything from the Stonewall Protests and the iconic LGBTQ hamlet of Cherry Grove on Fire Island (which is currently on show this summer) to the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis. “We have artifacts ranging from clothing to banners to testimony from various figures, and, of course, we have the archive of Billie Jean King [tennis player and prominent AIDS activist],” Mirrer says.
While there has been a rise in queer-focused exhibitions in the art world recently, queer museums have largely remained small-scale affairs. The arrival of a museum such as The American LGBTQ+ Museum will surely help keep the critical history of the LGBT movement alive for generations to come. New-York Historical Society recognizes the need for increased education about the LGBT community, even around fairly contemporary issues such as HIV/AIDS. “We had young people come to our AIDS exhibition and be completely blown away about what they learned,” Mirrer says. “They had no idea.”
The expansion includes other additions that a wide population of the city is sure to benefit from. The plans include new galleries and study areas that will host the graduate students from New-York Historical Society’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program and the addition of onsite classrooms that will host students from various New York public schools.
The addition of the American LGBTQ+ Museum comes after the New-York Historical Society held lengthy conversations with its surrounding community about expanding. “We did have some comments that made us rethink the details of the building,” Mirror shares. In response to concerns from residents of the co-op building next door, the museum opted to curb building out fully towards the property line the two buildings share and, instead, create a garden. “It’ll certainly be an amenity for the members of the co-op looking out their window.”
You can find out more information about the American LGBTQ+ Museum and its mission here.