Smithsonian Gets Major Donation of LGBT Artifacts
By Rebecca Juro
The representation of U.S. history at the Smithsonian Institution just got more inclusive.
A collection of LGBT-relevant papers, photographs, and other items of historical significance has been donated to the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian, the Associated Press reports. The diverse collection includes scripts, props, and set decor from the groundbreaking network television show Will & Grace; the diplomatic passports of David Huebner, the first openly gay U.S. ambassador confirmed by the Senate; a wooden racket used by transgender tennis star Renee Richards; and the original transgender pride flag created by transgender activist and Navy veteran Monica Helms as well as items from Helms’s career in the service as a submariner.
Asked about her feelings on the transgender pride flag being included in the collection, Helms told Out Traveler, “I feel honored, but I want to share that honor with the trans community. I’m also proud that they accepted my military memorabilia because trans people are still denied the right to serve.”
“There have always been gender-nonconforming people in the U.S., and we’ve made contributions and lived life since the beginning of the country,” Katherine Ott, one of the curators, told AP. “It’s not talked about and analyzed and understood in the critical ways in which it should be. So for us to build the collection means we can more fully document the history of this country.”
Will & Grace co-creator David Kohan told the news service that he and his colleagues never dreamed the show would be so honored when it premiered in 1998. “These particular guests that were invited into people’s living rooms happened to be your gay friends. I don’t think people really had the opportunity to have that before, and it served to, I think, make people recognize that your close friends were gay,” Kohan said. “The fact that it’s in the American history [museum], maybe we were a part of something that was bigger than we ever imagined.”
“The donation is part of larger effort to document gay and lesbian history, an area that has not been well understood at the museum,” the AP notes, with curators gathering “LGBT political, sports, and cultural history objects from Arizona to Maryland.”
Pictured: Actors Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally, Will & Grace co-creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, and actors Debra Messing and Eric McCormack accept the Outstanding Comedy Series award at the 17th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles in 2006. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)