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“Queering Spires”: Museum’s appeal for queer history exhibition

The curators of an upcoming exhibition celebrating Oxford’s everyday queer history are appealing for local people to loan memorabilia.

“Queering Spires” is a collaboration between the Museum of Oxford, Oxford Pride, Tales of Our City and members of the community to tell the “hidden history” of Oxford’s LGBTQIA+ communities.

To highlight local queer history, the curators are focusing on memories and gathering an eclectic range of objects which evoke them – ranging from memorabilia of gay bars and community centres to activist fliers, from boxes of photos to objects with deeply personal, hidden meanings such as a champagne cork from a civil partnership.

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Centre, said: “People know about the big moments in queer history, like Stonewall and Section 28, but this exhibition is about what life was like for people in Oxford – the spaces, the events, just daily life. 

“The best way to tell this story is through the memories of those who were living here, which is why the Museum of Oxford is calling for people to loan items to the exhibition.”

There are also valuable ways to take part in the initiative for those who do not have objects to loan. Zayna Ratty, Chair of Oxford Pride, told Cherwell she encourages University of Oxford students to support the exhibition “through visiting and engaging with the exhibits, opening dialogues and having conversations about queer life in Oxfordshire”.

She added: “[There has been] historical exclusion and phobia experienced by some members of the LGBTQIA+ acronym. Pivotal people in LGBTQIA+ history have come from marginalised groups and should be remembered for the vital advances made for all of us.

“Oxford Pride with our theme of DiverseCity 2020 hopes to explore and platform these marginalised groups engaging with our community. To be able to better look forward and face the hurdles ahead, it’s vitally important that we have an awareness of where we come from.

Oxford’s LGBTQ+ Society told Cherwell: “This sounds like a wonderful initiative and a great example of grassroots community-building and refining of Oxford’s collective memory. We hope that this project foregrounds the previously unheard stories of the LGBTQ+ communities who have come before us and made their own unique mark here, which we are privileged to discover through this exhibition.” 

“Queering Spires” is part of Oxford Museum’s National Lottery Fund-supported “Oxford Revisited” project to highlight LGBTQIA+ experiences through community exhibitions and a programme of workshops.

The exhibition will be on display from September 2019 until Christmas 2019 in the museum’s Micro-Museum space in Oxford Town Hall. Subsequently, “Queering Spires” will be installed as a permanent exhibition when the Museum’s ongoing £3.2m redevelopment concludes in 2020.

The Museum advises people interested in loaning objects should contact the Community Engagement and Exhibitions Officer at [email protected].

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