This project will reveal and celebrate the rich LGBTQ+ heritage embedded in the collections at RAMM. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history can be found in the museum’s collections in areas such as zoology, anthropology, fine art, and local and overseas archaeology, but it is not visible at the moment. Curators and engagement specialists at RAMM will work together with Prof Jana Funke from the University of Exeter and socially engaged artist and writer Natalie McGrath to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in the South West to uncover, create and share existing and new LGBTQ+ heritage at the museum.
The project team acknowledges that there are important intersections between queering and decolonising museum spaces and is committed to doing this work across the different strands of the project. We are also committed to centring trans and non-binary perspectives and are keen to develop a trans-inclusive queer feminist approach to museum collections to work against historical processes of erasure.
To achieve these goals, members of the LGBTQ+ community will work with Prof Funke and McGrath to interpret the collections in order to reveal untold LGBTQ+ stories. These will be shared through special events and performances, an online trail and website, and a new piece of creative heritage writing by McGrath.
The project builds on an existing collaboration with young LGBTQ+ people and RAMM, led by McGrath and Prof Funke, which resulted in the launch of the Rainbow Trail at the museum last year. Inspired by this earlier work, the museum is now expanding its engagement with LGBTQ+ communities to reveal and share the important LGBTQ+ heritage in the collections.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community will engage creatively with diverse museum artefacts and art works through a series of workshops led by Dr Funke and McGrath. As part of an oral history project, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ will be invited to narrate personal life stories inspired by specific objects in the collections. The stories and objects will be shared on the project website.
McGrath will be a Writer in Residence at RAMM and work with communities to create a range of creative heritage outputs. Through her writing, the currently hidden LGBTQ+ heritage in RAMM’s collections will become visible, allowing audiences to engage with and learn more about sexual and gender diversity in the past and present.
An interactive installation at the RAMM, created by Bristol-based design studio Stand + Stare, will draw upon the responses revealed through workshops and the personal stories gathered through the oral history project.
A series of public events at the RAMM, including a Queering the Museum edition of the popular RAMM Lates series in 2021, will feature interactive workshops, talks, music, creative activities, Q+As, and performances.
Finally, we will work with LGBTQ+ volunteers at the RAMM to ensure that LGBTQ+ communities feel welcomed and represented at the museum.