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The Most Important LGBTQ Museums in the USA

The Most Important LGBTQ Museums in the USA

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Getaway Staff
Updated: Oct 18, 2021

The queer experience is one that should be understood and celebrated in America and folks can do that by visiting queer-focused museums. The struggle for civil rights, how queer people have lived, and what they have produced can all be found within important exhibits. These museums are must-sees whether you are a queer person yourself eager to learn about your community or a cishet (cisgender heterosexual) wanting to know more.

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01Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art

The LGBTQ community has always produced outspoken and creative artists due to their perspective outside of the heteronormative world that most cishet artists gaze from. In New York City, a museum has been created to honor this unique artistic expression. Fritz Lohman and Charles Leslie hosted an exhibition of queer art collections in the significant year of 1969 (the Stonewall Riots took place in June of the same year). The museum itself was established in 2016 through hardship and resistance. With 30,000 pieces and including artists from three hundred years ago, it really is an impressive collection of queer creatives.

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02ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives

The ONE Archives includes more than 2 million LGBTQ creations. Preserving queer art and history leads to awareness, and ONE believes in this strongly. Since 2010 the University of Southern California libraries holds ONE's materials in their West Adams Boulevard archives. These materials can be viewed by casual visitors and researchers alike. An incredible array of exciting exhibits ranging from film, literature, and pictures to audio clips.

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03Stonewall National Museum & Archives

Named after the significant Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City, this museum is actually in Fort Lauderdale. This museum's origin was in 1984 as a library, created by student Mark Silber. Growing to become a non-profit museum, it holds an impressive 30,000 items, including artwork and history.

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04Lesbian Herstory Archives

With homosexuality often viewed through the cisgender male gaze, both cis and trans lesbian stories are regularly overlooked. The Lesbian Herstory Archives sought to change that in the 1970s. Within the archives, there are many materials created by the lesbian community pertaining to culture and history.

Those unable to make it to Brooklyn can attend traveling exhibits or view their impressive digital collection, the most extensive archive of lesbian materials in the world.

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05National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame

Whereas other archives focus on art and history, Illinois is home to America's only LGBTQ sports museum. Opening in 2013, at the Center on Halsted the museum seeks to celebrate LGBTQ members that have contributed to the world of sport and preserve queer athletic history. 2013 became a stand-out year as NBA player Jason Collins became the first active cis male athlete to come out. Their hall of fame has inducted such sporting heroes as Billie Jean King and Megan Rapinoe, alongside Collins and many others.

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06World AIDS Museum

Fort Lauderdale is included for the second time for the World AIDS Museum. The museum has an exhibit that details the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which affected the LGBTQ community deeply and took many queer lives. The museum's goal is to fight the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and empower folks with information. Presently the museum holds art shows, panels, and seminars and provides education and support.

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07Andy Warhol Museum

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - AUGUST 6: Christine "Darling" Feldman enjoys birthday cake as well as the artwork of Andy Warhol during the 75th birthday celebrations at the Andy Warhol museum on August 6, 2003 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Activities were on hand along with cake and ice cream as part of the Summer of Andy. Archie Carpenter / Getty Images

Andy Warhol is remembered as a queer pop artist and icon whose vast body of work captivated and revolutionized the world of art and media in the minds of millions. Situated in Pittsburgh, the museum boasts 900 artworks, over 70 sculptures, 4000 photos, and thousands of films. The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest gallery devoted to one artist.

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08GLBT Historical Society

The GLBT Museum, sometimes referred to as the 'gay Smithsonian' (in jest), is found in San Francisco. The museum is home to countless historical materials that tell the story of the LGBTQ community in America, specifically Northern California. GLBT was the first museum to be devoted entirely to queer people. Visitors are free to view their unique exhibits of archives and artwork.

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09The Legacy Project

Like GLBT, The Legacy Project is the first of its kind in the world. Found in Chicago, Legacy is an outdoor experience that honors the contributions of incredible LGBTQ members. The installation takes the form of plaques made of bronze that sit on rainbow pylons. These works celebrate the achievements of queer figures and the lives they led.

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10Alice Austen House

The Alice Austen House is actually a historic site thanks to The National Register of Historic Places. Found in Staten Island, the 17th-century house was home to Alice Austen and her partner Gertrude Tate. Austen was one of the first cis women to delve into the world of professional photography. An exhibit named "New Eyes on Alice Austen" is dedicated to her and Tate's relationship, as well as 8000 photos shot by Austen.

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