Nothing to Hide – LGBTQ Archives Allow Visitors To Study What’s In Plain Sight
If you’re a reader of a certain vintage, you might remember a series of game books wherein the main character was, well, you. You—in the guise of astronaut or archaeologist, cowboy or mountain climber, rock star or movie star, submariner or hot air balloon pilot—interacted with the (paper) pages, engaging in a journey of transformation that would nudge and cajole you through various road-forks—“If you want to duck into the secret passage, jump to Page 23!”—which culminated in one of several possible endings. “Your choice may lead to success or disaster!” you were helpfully advised.
If you are such a you, you might find yourself recalling your own personal history when you jump to “In Plain Sight,” an exhibition that makes current crucial chronicled LGBTQ accomplishments. Like those hard copy adventures of the analogue age, the visitor’s choices profoundly affect the experience. Unlike those hard copy adventures of yore, the interaction between presentation and presentee enjoys the benefit of being rooted in reality—the part of reality that’s already happened, anyway. This virtual experience’s title usually refers to people who are hiding, but this display showcases queer heroes who, over the years, have engaged in hiding’s opposite, often paying a hefty personal price to do so.
This celebration of the past has been thrust into our particular present by the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, which describes itself as “one of the largest LGBTQ archives and libraries in the United States.” “In Plain Sight” has debuted thusly by design: October is LGBTQ history month, thanks to that month’s association with National Coming Out Day, Spirit Day, and 1979’s first march on Washington, D.C., for “Lesbian and Gay Rights.” Ending with a holiday where everyone gets to dress up is just a happy coincidence.
This historic homage—based out of Fort Launderette, FL—can be accessed via touchscreen by Sunshine State locals; for those of us based up north, the Internet can also provide a satisfying (and free) alternative. The e-exhibit, subtitled “LGBTQ Journeys Into Transformation,” has parsed the past into 10 overarching categories: AIDS/HIV, Arts, Business, Film/TV, Literature, Memorials, Milestones, Music, Sports, and Theatre/Dance.
Each of these groupings is a portal through which the historically curious can jump to over 800 high-resolution entries carefully crafted and collated by the Museum’s dedicated chroniclers. “Far more than an interactive display, the team designed an engaging curriculum that proves in-depth education and opportunities to interact with existing material from the archival collection available at the museum,” promises Stonewall’s press release. “The goal is to provide an interactive discussion that enhances the learning experience of our history.”
Once you’ve returned to the present from your choose-your-own-adventures of the past, perhaps, transformed by your experience, the next bit of LGBTQ history will be made by you.