Friday, May 16, 2014

Gay life on display as history

The GLBT History Museum in San Francisco's Castro District opened its new main gallery on Thursday.
Dr. Amy Sueyoshi and Jim Van Buskirk were the lead curators for the opening show: "Queer Past Becomes Present."

Having lived gay history enthusiastically and sometimes painfully in San Francisco since the 1970s, it was a little jarring to see what was just my existence given a professional quality museum treatment as History. I looked at the exhibits -- show posters, political flyers, Harvey Milk's kitchen table, Jose Sarria's dress, photos of Gay Parades past -- and thought, "yeah, but wasn't all that stuff just how we were?"

But naturally, that's not how most visitors will see this material. I'm glad it is there for folks who came along in another time.

And certainly not all of it was familiar. The display you can glimpse behind Amy's shoulder is fascinating:

Constructing Jiro Onuma: Putting the Pieces Together
"Constructing Jiro Onuma" details how history is a dynamic process involving continuous excavation and discovery through the personal collection of Japanese immigrant Jiro Onuma. His collection offers the only known visual documentation of same-sex intimacy in the Japanese American incarceration camps.

That exhibit includes wonderful home movies from Onuma's life.

My friend Elizabeth Cornu, retired from the deYoung Museum, here lets off a little steam after seeing this volunteer project to completion. The museum is a labor of love, opening our past to all.


Hattie said...

I've been reading and appreciating right along!
Did you read about the 9-11 museum? I have been seeing some commentary on the unease people feel at visiting museums that historicize what were personal and profound experiences to them. This seems to put matters firmly in the past, too, that are far from being resolved.

janinsanfran said...

We have (almost definitely) landed a book tour gig in NYC this summer. I suppose I should take a look at the 9/11 museum while we are there.

In 1971-2, I watched the towers go up, looking out of the back window of a walk up at First and Houston Streets.