Queer is here and in our Museums!

Meet Queering the Museum project, an intervention into representations of LGBTQ people in museums, founded by Erin Bailey and Nicole Robert. We believe their view that “museums have a responsibility to account for the role played in constructing normalized ideas of race, gender and sexuality” is integral to a more socially inclusive museum. We look forward to following their work in the months to come!

Can you imagine hearing Bikini Kill at maximum volume inside the white walls of a museum? What would Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party look like inside a history museum? How do museums combine diverse communities, Queer culture, the gender revolution, and today’s youth? Is it possible for museums to counteract the inequality in historical records? These are some difficult questions… Queering the Museum project (QTM) has asked these hard questions, gained the trust of several museums, and created a long-term mutually beneficial project that focuses on representations of LGBTQ communities in museums. Now all we need to do is find a way to play Bikini Kill inside the pristine walls of a museum….

QTM co-founders Erin Bailey and Nicole Robert with Jonathan Katz

QTM has helped museums address their diverse communities by creating outlets for discourse, exhibitions to display the art and history of Queer individuals, and resources for those looking to examine the diverse history of Seattle. Succinctly put, QTM is a coordinated intervention into representations of LGBTQ people in museums, facilitating critical dialogue between community members and museum practitioners addressing the role that museums play in forming social norms around gender and sexuality.

Scene from Queering the Art Museum exhibition: Hide//Seek//Difference//Desire//Northwest at the Space Tacoma

QTM was founded on the dreams of Erin Bailey and Nicole Robert, two queer individuals seeking to create a seamless balance of social justice, scholarship and community influence in one project. With QTM we have achieved our vision. Our inaugural events in 2012 included a Queering the Art Museum symposium supporting the Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington. The symposium featured the co-curator of Hide/Seek, Jonathan Katz, and several community members. This two-day symposium led up to the opening of a local art exhibition titled Hide//Seek//Difference//Desire//Northwest, which featured over 19 artists from the Pacific Northwest.

This event was a buffet of Queer: Queer artists, Queer performers and Queer organizers. The Queering the Art Museum symposium was only the appetizer to what has become the QTM dinner party. The second course features our latest partnership with the new Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle, Washington. Yes, the newly revamped and soon to be re-opened MOHAI is working with QTM to create a trifecta of Queer culture within the shiny white walls of their new South Lake Union building. The QTM trifecta begins in February 2013 with a digital storytelling project that speaks for 10 individuals who will record a key element of their life as they see it in a high-quality digital format. Tossing the traditional oral history model, we are not employing leading questions designed with the best intentions but are nevertheless guiding the interviewees down a curated path for sharing their stories. This digital storytelling model will give the interviewees a chance to tell us what is important to them. The second component of this trifecta is a full day of discourse on all things associated with Queer history, which will take place in May 2013. Drawing on the expertise of local Queer historians, scholars, museum professionals, and community groups, this symposium will offer museum professionals the needed tools and resources to prepare their museums to address LGBTQ content. Not only will discourse be the main component of QTM’s second course, we will also screen the digital stories for the community, leading to conversations about authority and how to collect history. The final component of QTM’s main course is a Queer history exhibition in MOHAI’s newly-established community gallery. This exhibition will open in October 2013 and will be the first examination of Seattle’s Queer history in nearly 20 years, not to mention the first time for MOHAI to show a Queer history exhibition. This exhibit will address the last 40 years of Queer history in Seattle, focusing on important icons that have helped shape and define contemporary Queer culture in Seattle. The best part of the QTM dinner party is that dessert is yet to come. QTM will continue into 2014 with new partnerships and projects.

Stay tuned to the Incluseum’s blog for the next phase of Queering the Museum projects to promote LGBTQ inclusion in Seattle based museums!

Erin Bailey is a Museology Masters of Arts Candidate in the Museology program at the University of Washington. As a current student she co-founded Queering the Museum project to align her practical experience with her academic focus. Her research addresses inclusion, methods for elevating Queer culture in museums while connecting the museum to diverse communities. If you would like more info regarding her research or have any questions please comment here or email us at incluseum@gmail.com.

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  1. […] out the lastest blog post on The Inlcuseum blog. It’s about […]

  2. […] this blog post from The Incluseum. It lays out the next year of QTM projects!  Queer is here and in our […]

  3. Very very interesting project. I noticed during my research about LGBT communities in the Museum of London that oral history and testimonies play an important role in the representation of marginalised groups. And the QTM uses an oral history model as well. Thanks, Anna

  4. Hi Anna! We do indeed, a modified oral history approach. Do share more about your work in London.

  5. […] some cases, social inclusion requires museums to become advocates on behalf of specific community groups and individuals, fighting for their fair representation and access to museum […]

  6. […] Before QTM, was QTM, I was working on a symposium called Queering the Art Museum which was in conjunction with the Hide/Seek exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum. At that time, I met […]

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