Former Smithsonian researcher Tim Gold and his husband, North Carolina furniture magnate Mitchell Gold, are spearheading an effort to open a national history museum in the nation’s capital that will teach the often-ignored roles that LGBT Americans have played in the country’s history.
“This isn’t a museum just for gay people or just for lesbian people or just for transgender people,” Tim Gold told The Washington Post. “I want anyone who walks through this door to be able to take something away from the experience.”
The Post reports:
Gold founded a charitable group, the Velvet Foundation, in 2008 to gather donations. He and Mitchell, who does philanthropic work on behalf of gay youth and edited a book of coming-out stories, have enlisted a lawyer to arrange their fundraising, a museum design expert to plan exhibits, and a real estate broker to locate and acquire property needed for a 100,000-square-foot museum….
With the backing of his wealthy husband, who co-founded the $100 million home furnishing company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Tim Gold has been traveling the country acquiring artifacts from gay rights activists and their families, often explaining his project in their living rooms, then following them to pick through boxes in their attics.
So far Gold has 5,000 items stored in a climate-controlled warehouse in Forestville, including protest signs, a filmstrip of a 1970 gay pride parade in New York, and a violin and music stand that belonged to Tyler Cementi. He said there would be many more if the families of early activists, believing homosexuality to be a taboo subject, hadn’t tossed out artifacts upon their deaths.
“So much of our history is unfortunately thrown out,” said Gold, who thinks that even the original sign from the Stonewall Inn has been discarded.
While the museum may face some opposition from conservatives if it inevitably addresses the same-sex marriage debate, Joe Solmonese, former president of the Human Rights Campaign, said it would nevertheless be an invaluable resource.
“Every advance that we’ve made has been brought about because we’ve been able to change the hearts and minds of the American people in a pretty significant way, and in the context of history, in a fairly rapid way,” he said. “And I see the museum as doing just that.”
Tim Gold realizes that the project is still years away from completion, but an artifact-finding trip to visit Matthew Shepard’s mother served to further inspire him. She showed him letters from young people across the country who had written to Shepard as he lay in a coma, which brought Gold to tears.
“It is for the LGBT youth,” he said of the museum. “That high school boy or girl who comes from a community that’s not so accepting, maybe a family that’s not so accepting, from a church that’s not so accepting, and at the very least they should be able to walk by this museum and know that it’s okay.”
You can learn more about the National LGBT Museum and the campaign to support it here.