First LGBT History Museum Opens

Manuscripts, sex toys and other gay artifacts are now on display in the San Francisco's Castro District

Photos courtesy of GLBT History Museum

Many museums around the country have included gay history in exhibitions over the years, but San Francisco has become the first city to open a museum dedicated exclusively to gay and lesbian life.

The GLBT Historical Society marks its quarter-century anniversary with the opening of the GLBT History Museum in the the city’s legendary gay neighborhood – the Castro. The museum is only one of two in the world – and the only museum of its kind in the U.S. – dedicated to all things queer.

“We’re proud to showcase our community’s history,” says Paul Boneberg, the Historical Society’s executive director. “The GLBT History Museum is in the heart of the Castro, a neighborhood visited not only by locals, but also by tens of thousands of tourists every year who are in search of queer culture. We have gone all out to create a museum as rich, diverse and surprising as the GLBT community itself.”

When the doors officially open January 13, visitors will have the opportunity to view manuscripts, sex toys, photographs and special multimedia exhibitions about LGBT culture in the U.S. in the 1,600 square-foot space.

In the main gallery, “Our Vast Queer Past: Celebrating GLBT History” kicks off the museum’s inaugural week. Curated by Gerard Koskovich, Don Romesburg and Amy Sueyoshi, the exhibit collects important moments and memorabilia from gay life into a showcase of the political, artistic, sexual and cultural. Issues including outing, drag, bathhouses, gays in the military, fetish and bar life are discussed, along with profiles of important figures in gay and lesbian America.

A second exhibition, “Great Collections of the GLBT Historical Society Archives,” has been installed in the front gallery. It features items from one of the largest LGBT archives in the world, including many personal histories from people who worked tirelessly in the fight for gay rights.

Hollywood helped bring attention to the historical society’s fundraising campaign to open the GLBT History Museum. After the movie Milk was filmed in the neighborhood a few years ago – where the real Harvey Milk made his home until he was assassinated – the historical society set up a temporary exhibition space that inspired local businesses and donors to contribute to the permanent museum this year.

For more information about the museum and its exhibitions, visit online.