Two upcoming exhibits at the Museum of Science and History (MoSH) will explore the Gay Rights Movement from a national perspective and through a local lens.
This summer, MoSH will be hosting companion exhibitions exploring key moments in the history of LGBTQ rights and life in our southern city. The first, “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement,” is a national traveling exhibit created by the Newseum in Washington, D.C. that explores how the police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village in June 1969 became the spark that ignited the modern gay rights movement in the United States. It uses artifacts and images to shed light on important milestones of gay rights history, from the 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk–one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials–to the AIDS crisis. It covers hate crime legislation and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as well as the fight for marriage equality. “Rise Up” also examines pop culture’s role in influencing attitudes about the LGBTQ community through film, television and sports, and examines how the gay rights movement has appropriated the power of public protest and demonstration to get laws changed and to shatter stereotypes.
The companion exhibit is all Memphis and all locally curated. “Memphis Proud: The Resilience of a Southern LGBTQ Community” taps into the heart of our region. “Memphis Proud” examines the history and culture of the city’s LGBTQ population and explores how LGBTQ Memphians of different backgrounds and experiences have come together to form thriving communities, providing powerful voices for change and acceptance in our city. Through a large collection of local artifacts, photographs, and narratives, “Memphis Proud” tells the story of how our LGBTQ community responded to national challenges such as the struggle for political rights and the AIDS crisis, as well as the Mid-South’s own unique set of circumstances.
Memphis is a city that prides itself on community engagement, and this exhibit spotlights the ways in which LGBTQ Memphians engaged in local community building, from finding support in open and affirming faith-based institutions to building formal community centers to creating informal gathering places in bars, bookstores, house parties and restaurants. The creators of the exhibit assembled a committee of 20 local community leaders and LGBTQ activists that met monthly to help craft and document the movement’s authentic stories. These meetings held discussions on housing, education, nightlife, religion and allies in the fight for acceptance and inclusion.
This exhibit was possible because Memphis’ LGBTQ citizens have remained committed to creating strong communities and to fostering a culture of activism,” says Raka Nandi, Director of Exhibits and Collections for MoSH. “The history of the local LGBTQ community is one of tremendous diversity, and the exhibit has attempted to emphasize the importance of queer organizations and culture to the Mid-South.”
“Memphis Proud” does not shy away from tough topics, and will explore the intersectional tensions created by race and gender difference, as well as attempts to create coalitions to overcome these obstacles. The exhibit draws attention to the accomplishments of local leaders who have led the charge in this city to fight for the dignity and humanity of their community, and introduces a new generation of activists who continue to challenge discrimination and increase the visibility and influence of the LGBTQ population in Memphis.
In the spirit of “Memphis Proud”, the exhibit also highlights joyful celebrations of LGBTQ identity, with events like Pride parades and drag shows which emphasize how queer Memphians have long created their own culture in the face of prejudice and exclusion.
The “Rise Up” and “Memphis Proud” exhibits open June 4th and run through September 26nd. For full information, visit MoshMemphis.com.
About the Museum of Science and History (MoSH)
The Museum of Science and History (MoSH) is committed to telling the story of Memphis. Its mission is to inspire discovery through collecting, preserving and interpreting the cultural histories and natural sciences that shape our region. MoSH is a collective of historic, educational and cultural attractions that span the city, from the Mallory-Neely and Magevney Houses downtown, to the Pink Palace Mansion with its Giant Screen Theater and Planetarium, to the Lichterman Nature Center in East Memphis. Learn more by visiting MoSHMemphis.com.