What to Expect From the U.K.’s First LGBTQ Museum

The museum, set to open in the spring, will reside in King’s Cross, a London neighborhood with a rich queer history

People in bright yellow shirts, including one person smiling with their arm raised, boast rainbow flags and march in support of LGBTQ people
Marchers celebrate in London, England, at the city's annual LGBTQ Pride festival in 2019. Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

A new museum dedicated to the lives of LGBTQ people is coming to the United Kingdom, organizers announced Monday. It will be the first of its kind in the country.

Nonprofit group Queer Britain plans to open the museum this spring, the group notes in a statement. The institution will occupy the ground floor of a London arts building for two years, after which organizers hope to find their new museum a permanent home. As Conor Clark reports for Gay Times, the museum will feature four galleries, a workshop, a gift shop, offices for staff and an education space.

Director and co-founder Joseph Galliano, a former editor of Gay Times, tells Robert Dex of the Evening Standard that the exhibitions will feature loans from other museums. Galliano also hopes to grow his organization’s own archives, which are currently housed at London’s Bishopsgate Institute, a cultural, educational and research center, and are available to scholars upon request. As Gareth Harris reports for the Art Newspaper, Bishopsgate boasts a vast archive of gay and lesbian news media.

Queer Britain’s own archives include a 2019 series of photographic portraits of transgender and nonbinary people created by photographer Allie Crew; a rainbow-fringed jacket worn by singer Olly Alexander of the band Years and Years; and the founding documents of Stonewall, an anti-homophobia organization founded by actor Ian McKellen.

Galliano tells the Evening Standard that he hopes the museum will “send a strong signal about people being valued.”

He adds that the museum will charge no admission: “I would be heartbroken if any young queer person or any person at all couldn’t get in and engage with what we’re working on because they didn’t have the money.”

“The UK is finally getting the LGBTQ+ museum it deserves, to reflect and celebrate all our exciting and wildly diverse communities, whatever their sexualities, gender identities, backgrounds, ability or heritage,” says Anjum Mouj, a Queer Britain trustee and a board member of Imaan, a Muslim LGBTQ group, in the statement.

“Community lives in unity,” Mouj adds.

The King’s Cross neighborhood, where the museum will be located, has undergone significant gentrification in the last 50 years. But in the 1980s and 1990s, the district was a poor neighborhood home to a rowdy queer nightlife scene that centered around gay and lesbian bar The Bell and other establishments. These pubs were a haven during the AIDS crisis and served as a gathering place for activists, as Ryan Gilbey reported for the Guardian in 2017.