Unstraight = Anyone or anything that is or was not part of the straight norm in
THE SHORT STORY
In 2007 a group of people in Sweden got tired of the fact that most museums neglect to tell the stories of Unstraight people and therefore decided to do something about it by starting the exhibition project Article 1, a collaboration between some of Swedens most prominent museums (The Army Museum, The Nobel Museum, The National Museum of Science and Technology, The National Historical Museum and The Police Museum). From this project sprung the idea of a new museum focused on collective collecting of Unstright history.
THE UNSTRAIGHT MUSEUM IS TASKED WITH:
- Collecting and documenting LGBT history in all its forms
- Cataloguing and creating open artefact databases
- Making all collected information available to the general public
- Working to encourage more museums to include a LGBT perspective in their collections.
The site www.unstraight.org was launched 21/7 2011 and is a project in development. The site is in its first stage and will envelop with improved search functions and links to Europeana and other museums shortly.
THE LONG STORY
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
So begins the first article of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights.
It is a universal declaration, intended to encompass everyone on earth. Without exception. But those who are not allowed to be seen are hardly equal in dignity. No, in fact, a person who is not allowed to be seen does not exist. And, by default, neither does a person who does not exist have any rights.
If a person is Unstraight, all their concrete rights – the right to hold their lover’s hand in a public place, the right not to be discriminated against at their workplace, the right to live together on equal terms with other couples – all spring from the first: the right to be seen.
Museums and exhibitions form an important part of our view of reality. It is here our cultural heritage – our collective memory – is given concrete form. Here we define that which is important – and thereby, by its absence, also that which is not.
Our museums have long neglected to tell the stories of LGBT persons and their unique experiences. They have either been blind to them or have chosen to turn a blind eye. They have made such people invisible. They have failed to uphold the equal rights and dignity of all human beings.
For this reason, it is with great joy and pride that we now unveil The Unstraight Museum – a site dedicated to presenting the stories of Unstraight individuals and their contemporary reality.
ARTEFACTS, COLLECTIONS AND THE POWER OF THE STORY
Most people have a secret place where they keep items of great personal value: old letters, children’s comic books, souvenirs from a memorable trip. Some of these objects we have procured ourselves, others we have inherited from those who lived before us or have received from people who have meant something to us. These objects are imbued with memories, feelings and stories. The objects connect us to these stories; they build bridges across time and space, create structure and meaning.
Like individuals, museums also choose to keep objects. The purpose of museums in collecting artefacts is somewhat similar to the reasons why individuals save certain objects, although museums do so on a much larger scale. Museum collections intend to preserve objects that can link us with, and supply structure and meaning to, our shared history. They serve as knowledge banks for both researchers and the general public alike, and they have long been of great importance for education. They are our cultural heritage; our collective memory.
But just as individual collections tell individual stories, museum collections both carry and convey collective stories. These many objects tell us not only the way things were, but also what is important – and by its exclusion, what is not. The fact is that not all artefacts have been saved and not all stories have been considered of equal importance. Often, those who have managed museum collections have especially prized artefacts and stories linked to nations, although other explicit and implicit values have also shaped the formation of collections. This continues to be the case even today. Many artefacts and stories have been, and continue to be, excluded from these collections because they are considered unimportant or shameful and undesirable.
Not least of all, museums have long neglected to depict the stories and unique experiences of Unstraight people. They have rendered invisible an important part of the history – everyone’s history – that they are tasked with both preserving and conveying.
This failure is no mere footnote. The question of what is allowed to be seen in our public collections is of great importance to our lives and the opportunities we possess here and now. Because those who are invisible do not exist. And a person who does not exist, by default, cannot have any rights.
That is why The Unstraight Museum is needed. By pooling our energies and resources to create a collection that calls attention our history and contemporary reality we will create a place for ourselves in mankind’s collective story. This, in turn, will make it easier for us to claim our rights, both locally and globally.
Modern technology has provided us with new opportunities to both collect artefacts and to make them accessible. Collecting physical items is time-consuming and requires a great deal of space and money. The Unstraight Museum is a website that aims to collect images of artefacts and to tell the stories behind them. This method is significantly less complicated and cheaper than operating a conventional museum and also provides opportunities that traditional museums cannot.
The Unstraight Museum is a museum with a global reach. Everyone with objects and stories are welcome to contribute to the museum’s collection, regardless of what part of the world you live in. The objects themselves will remain with their owners and, as such, while the museum’s collection will be very widely-dispersed in a physical sense, the website will allow the collection and all its stories to become available to the entire world.
As a museum, this global reach gives us the opportunity to promote a broader perspective than a traditional, national focus would. Even though both historical circumstance and daily life conditions vary greatly from place to place, our stories and contemporary reality is not primarily bound to nations. All over the world, our history and our experiences have been hidden from sight. Everywhere, they need to
be brought out into the light and told. All our stories are interesting and all of them are important. And these artefacts are needed to help tell them.
We believe in objects that build bridges across time and space. We believe in the power of these collected stories.
The project is a non government, non profit organization based in Sweden run and by a group of museum professionals. Feel free to contact us anytime for more information on the project.