|Donna Sachet, Mayor Edwin lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty and Supervisor David Campos cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the LGBT history museum. Photo by Rink.
The GLBT Historical Society opened its doors on Jan. 13 to its GLBT History Museum, the first of its kind in America. After the special pre-grand opening for donors and volunteers, a line formed around the block of citizens anxious to explore the inside for the first time. With the official cutting of the rainbow ribbon, excited people burst into the building at 4127 18th and Castro Streets to witness LGBT history unfold in the many glass cases, video screenings, and intricate installations. At the back of the building, a continuous screening showed volunteers in various stages of process in fixing the space into the glorious gem it has become. Inside many people gave speeches in praise of volunteers, donors, and staff.
Amy Sueyoshi, historian, co-curator, and board member, announced newly elected Supervisor Scott Wiener of District 8, where the museum is located, after thanking everyone present. â€śI have lived in this neighborhood within about two blocks of this museum for 13 years, and as long as I have lived here, I have been waiting for an LGBT history museum to open up,â€ť he said. â€śI am absolutely elated that this is happening right after I got sworn in.â€ť He thanked fellow Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose seat he took over, â€śfor really helping make this happen.â€ť Wiener acknowledged at his swearing in ceremony that his 70-year old lesbian aunt from Philadelphia had been present. He noted she came out in the 1960s, pre-Stonewall, and she was a great role model and inspiration who made it so much easier for Wiener to come out as queer. â€śAs a gay guy growing up, I was acutely aware of the importance of understanding the history of our community and our movement, which is what this museum will help us do,â€ť he said.
Newly installed Interim-Mayor of San Francisco, Edwin Lee, announced excitedly, â€śThis is my second day on the job, and you are about to get my first proclamation!â€ť He elaborated that this museum opening was something he absolutely had to attend, as he earlier sat ruminating at his desk that was last occupied by Interim-Mayor Dianne Feinstein after Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been assassinated. â€śThis is the appropriate documentation of your history and the history of this city, and it is about struggle â€“ how people are attempting to live ordinary lives, just like my community had to do back in the early 1900s,â€ť he said. â€śThank you for doing this, and for raising the funds, and getting the expert archivists aboard. It should be visited by everybody who wants to understand the history of this city.â€ť The proclamation read in part: â€śSan Francisco takes pride in its diverse communities and neighborhoods with a commitment to inclusion that makes this an exceptional city and county that values equality and justice for all â€¦ and many can now discover the multitude of fascinating stories spanning nearly a century of GLBT life â€“ from the heart of the Castro â€“ which uniquely reflects the rich and diverse contributions of this community.â€ť
Historical Society Executive Director Paul Boneberg said this was another great first for San Francisco, where all the media around the world is reporting on this landmark occasion. â€śThis dream has been embraced by a wide range of people,â€ť he said, and acknowledged, for examples, historians such as Gerard Koskovich, Susan Streicher, Willie Walker, and Terrence Kissick who have had this dream for a museum for a long time. He praised Levi Strauss as a presenting sponsor of both this museum and its earlier exhibit two years ago. â€śWe could not have this museum were it not for the support of Levi Strauss,â€ť he noted. He called Levi Strauss â€śan extraordinary historic San Francisco company that has in many ways for many years been partners with the GLBT community,â€ť and introduced Quique Atienza, vice president of retail for Levis American.
â€śI am a member of the LGBT community myself,â€ť Atienza said, â€śand I am very proud to be representing Levi Strauss in working with the GLBT museum.â€ť He said his company stood for equal rights for all and discrimination against none. He noted in 1992, they were the first company in the Fortune 500 to support health benefits for domestic partners. They were also the only company to sign the amicus brief for same-sex marriage rights in California. In the last few years, the company has donated over a million dollars for various organizations against discrimination. They also chose to form a store in the heart of the Castro, â€śwhere we can make you look even better than tonight in our clothing.â€ť He said they look forward to working with Supervisor Wiener in the community.
Boneberg thanked Walgreens for being â€śindispensible in making the museum happen.â€ť They donated tens of thousands of dollars in addition to the extraordinary lease they had already given the museum. They covered the build-out, the permit, and reduced the rent to a mere $2,000 per month. The Bob Ross Foundation is sponsoring the free admission days every first Wednesday. The Human Rights Campaign generates income for the museum for every sale made in their store. Daniel Nicoletta and the Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial Committee is another sponsor. He mentioned several other personal donors. He also thanked the designer, Craig Harris. Boneberg said Supervisor Bevan Dufty has been â€śin every way â€“ not only a supporter of the museum but its champion.â€ť He added, â€śHe pushed us, as a small, little group to make a bigger and better museum.â€ť He said, â€śBevan knew it was the right thing for the City and for the Castro.â€ť
Dufty said he and his partner Rebecca hoped that someday their child Sidney would have dates at the museum, as well as other young people finding a place to go to be safe and enjoy one anotherâ€™s company. He said it was important that LGBT people live their lives out loud or even more subtly to make history â€“ â€śbeing ourselves, being out, and letting other people know who we are.â€ť He said, â€śThe fact that people can come from around the world and learn more about our history is so important.â€ť Dufty called Mayor Lee â€śa gentle giant and a role model to me as someone who has worked within the City family and brought people together.â€ť He joked, â€śI try to wear Levis as much as possible â€“ but not the tight ones.â€ť He said Levi Strauss represents true San Francisco values at work around the globe. â€śThere is no company like that in the world,â€ť he said. He also thanked Walgreens for making the space available. â€śWalgreens has never said no to us,â€ť he said. â€śThis is just the beginning. Size isnâ€™t everything, but weâ€™re going to have a world class museum in the Castro for everyone to enjoy going forward.â€ť
Armistead Maupin, well known author of the Tales of the City books and movie, pointed out that Emmy-award winning actress Laura Linney, who played Mary Ann Singleton in the TV version of Tales, donated her costume to the museum, which is proudly on display, along with some very fancy drag. â€śIâ€™m happy how sexy this museum is,â€ť Maupin commented. â€śThis is the most wonderful small queer town in the world.â€ť He was thrilled that Harvey Milkâ€™s famous bullhorn for civil rights was on exhibit.
Archivist Don Romesburg said the museum shows â€śthe conflicts of our community, the joys, the relationships, and politics, and the fights, and the culture, and art â€“ everything that makes LGBT people in San Francisco such an amazing and special people who have created a community that emanates out from here to the world.â€ť
Regular hours for the museum are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $5; free for members. For more information, call 415-621-1107 or visit glbthistory.org.