Since its inception in 2008, the National LGBT Museum is proud to have acquired approximately 5,000 artifacts for its permanent collection. While many of these items were donated by high profile figures, every artifact obtained by the Museum will help to celebrate, showcase, safeguard, and share the diversity of American history and culture through the lens of the LGBT communities.
The Museum’s collection from the estate of Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis tells an unforgettable story of moral courage and athletic prowess that is simultaneously an American victory and a significant moment in the history of the LGBT community. Louganis has donated artifacts that span his life and career as a public figure, which includes diving suits, honorary medals from his participation in the Gay Games, autographed posters, and awards for his civic engagements. The National LGBT museum is honored to house the largest collection of Greg Louganis’ memorabilia in the world.
The National LGBT Museum has also acquired artifacts from another openly gay professional athlete who predated Louganis, such as baseball player Glenn Burke. His homosexuality was kept an open secret during his tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Burke was eventually traded to the Oakland Athletics in 1979 amid negative talk about the player’s sexuality.
The Museum’s collection includes a 1978 Dodgers yearbook with a full-page bio of Burke, along with the design used for tee shirts sold at the Dodgers stadium which commemorated his (and Dusty Baker’s) invention of the high five. Burke is also credited with introducing the gesture to gay men living in the Castro district in San Francisco, where it was used to self-identify or as an expression of pride.
While sports and entertainment culture are important when they intersect with our community and country’s history, the National LGBT Museum has also allocated efforts to collecting objects that document, and enable us to share, moments in the LGBT community’s struggle for equal rights.
The Museum acquired a walking stick that belonged to gay rights advocate and civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the site where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his seminal “I Have a Dream Speech.” The accomplished activist, who is also credited with orchestrating the first Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on buses, was often pushed to the margins during his lifetime for being openly gay.
The National LGBT Museum is proud to have acquired the most thorough and comprehensive collection of artifacts from the late Frank Kameny. These items encompass the life and legacy of one of the community’s earliest activists—a collection that spans 50 years of championing LGBT causes.
The Museum’s collections are currently stored in a professional museum storage facility in Forestville, MD. Artifacts are processed and handled in accordance with standards and best practices. This year, the National LGBT Museum formed a Collections Committee, comprised of four DC area museum professionals with decades of experience between them in collections and exhibitions management ranging from the Smithsonian Institution to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Collections Committee is tasked with deciding how to handle new donations, and is also responsible for formulating strategies for collecting new artifacts for the Museum’s permanent collections.
For more information about the Museum’s collections policies or to learn how you can donate artifacts to the National LGBT Museum, please contact Jess Beasley at email@example.com.