The nation's first GLBT history museum is now open in — where else? — the Castro, the San Francisco district that was once home to Harvey Milk and bathhouses galore. The museum is a new part of the GLBT Historical Society, which was founded twenty-five years ago and has been collecting artifacts from all aspects of local queer culture ever since. Now their multi-media collection is being divided into twenty-five parts for the museum's debut exhibition "Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History."
The sections range from deviant ("Sex Toys: Implementing Erotic Expression") to political ("Queers of Color Organizing") to tragic ("HIV/AIDS: Grief, Solidarity, Determination"). The second exhibition, "Great Collections From the GLBT Historical Society Archives," focuses less on San Francisco and more on how the historical society itself has been a part of GLBT history.
While the museum is a wonderful idea, I wonder who outside the Bay Area will visit. There are tons of minority-specific museums across the country (New York's got like eight devoted only to Jews), but most of these were created after that minority had, more or less, been assimilated. Our country is in the middle of its gay civil rights movement, not at the end, and it seems certain that the reactions will not be totally positive.
Regardless of its perception, however, opening a GLBT museum feels significant in the same way that overturning DADT did — it acknowledges the gay community as an indelible part of our nation's collective.