Scholar Nicole Robert Collaboratively Queers the Museum of History and Industry with the opening of the “Revealing Queer” History Exhibit

Revealing Queer Exhibit

Opening panel of the Revealing Queer exhibit. Photo by Nicole Robert.

A little over two years ago, Erin Bailey and I were sitting in the café of a local Seattle museum dreaming about the ways that queer ideas and cultures could engage mainstream museums.  One of those dreams was a queer-themed history exhibit that would bring the rarely-seen stories of local lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) communities into a mainstream museum.  We picked the largest history organization in the state of Washington, the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and were surprised and thrilled when they accepted our proposal.

Erin and Nicole with Community Advisory Committee members

Erin and Nicole pictured with some of the Community Advisory Committee Members. Photo property of Museum of History and Industry, credit Barbie Hull.

On Feb. 14th, we celebrated the culmination of our MOHAI collaboration at the opening of the Revealing Queer exhibit, which explores the last 40 years of regional LGBTQ histories.  Erin and I co-founded Queering the Museum—an ongoing project to uncover and share LGBTQ stories in institutions across the country. Working with our Community Advisory Committee, we produced a digital storytelling project, a Queer History Museum Symposium and this exhibit.  Erin ably led the curation of the exhibit while I developed the digital storytelling videos, several of which are featured in the exhibit.

Reaveling queer exhibit

Exhibit stand featuring the Six Eleven Tavern sign. Photo by Nicole Robert.

Revealing Queer is an exhibit exploring how the Puget Sound LGBTQ community has grown, changed, become more visible, and worked towards equality. Informed throughout by the lived experiences of this incredibly diverse population, the exhibit traces its history from an emerging underground group in the years before the Stonewall Riots of 1969, to the large and politically active community that helped make marriage equality law in Washington State in 2012.  We hope that QTM’s partnership with MOHAI is the start of an ongoing conversation that builds lasting relationships between MOHAI and local queer communities.

MOHAI lobby

MOHAI lobby is full of people celebrating! Photo property of MOHAI, credit Barbie Hull.

With almost 700 people joining us for the Feb. 14th opening, we are thrilled by the community response. It was great to see people recognizing themselves or friends in some of the photos and to hear people reflect about the histories they helped create.  Many people commented on the significance of seeing stories like theirs in a mainstream museum.  The exhibit will be open six months and will be featured at the American Alliance of Museums national conference in May.  Erin and I are immensely thankful to everyone who helped make this exhibit a reality.  Through loaning objects, time and knowledge, Revealing Queer is truly a collective effort.

Scholar Derek Blechinger  (left) and Alum *Bex(right) supporting Scholar Nicole Robert (center) on opening night.

Scholar Derek Blechinger (left) and Alum *bex(right) supporting Scholar Nicole Robert (center) on opening night.

 

This post was written by Walter M. Decker Point Scholar Nicole Robert
Nicole Robert Nicole, the proud mother of two young children, came out later in life and grappled with her own shifting identity. She found herself having to confront the limited representations of gender and sexuality that exist in the world at large and in museums specifically. Responding to these gaps, Nicole earned an M.A. in Museology from the University of Washington and is now pursuing a PhD in Feminist Studies. Her research focuses on the intersections of race, gender and sexuality in U.S. history museums. Learn more about Nicole.

Nicole was one of the Point Scholars and Alumni in attendance at the recent Seattle Cornerstone event.