Queer Britain is a new museum in London, as its name lets us know it is a museum about LGBT+. We have museums dedicated to many issues and causes, but this is a first in the UK. Since 1985 the Schwules Museum in Berlin has existed and both it and Queer Britain predate the US where the first American LGBT+ Museum will open in New York in 2026. The 50 years it took for Queer Britain to become a reality, since a march in 1972, underline the accomplishment of being able to highlight a community which has been marginalized, and one which is still not recognized in at least 70 countries. One exhibit in Queer Britain for example is the door of the writer’s Oscar Wilde’s cell, a reminder of his having gone to prison for what was called gross indecency, a sentence that destroyed his reputation and maybe his health. He died 2 years after being freed at the age of 46, and for many he has become a symbol of the injustice the LGBT+ community has been subjected to. But this is also a time when in countries like the US rights such as marriage equality which were fought for for generations may well be in jeopardy. And our current discussions reflect questions these museums must address. Are they to speak to the general public, or address their own communities? It’s a line which each addresses in its own way. Queer Britain as it traces the arc of the LGBT+ history is aimed at the larger community, but then neither does it want to forget the issues affecting LBGT+ people in the present. In Berlin the focus is almost the inverse.
As they work through those issues, the fact remains that those museums exist, and regardless of what the public discourse ends up being, it’s hard to imagine the momentum will cease.