|PHOTO COURTESY OF BANCROFT LIBRARY, U C BERKELEY
â€śA Place at the Table,â€ť an exhibit of gay, lesbian and transgender culture, is now at the Bancroft Museum on the UCB campus. The exhibit leads visitors around an imaginary table seated with famous artists that might have attended Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklasâ€™ salons at their home in France. The first showcase features a romantic piece of history in the form of a teapot owned by Alice that is filled with still fragrant rose petals.
Around the imaginary table visitors meet guests Christine Jorgensen, one of the first publically recognized trans persons, the Laguna Pueblo berdache potter named Ruth, blues singer Ma Rainey, movie star Ramon Novarro, writer James Baldwin, drag entertainer Jose Sarria, comedian Margaret Cho and painter John Singer Sargent. Can you imagine the topics of their dinner conversation? This show is open to visitors Mon â€“ Fri, 10 am â€“ 4 pm until July. You can also access most of it via the web at the Bancroft Library website.
The exhibit showcases a timeline, which mirrors markers in LGBTQ history against happenings in the straight world. It displays fascinating artifacts like a book of the 1948 Kinsey study â€śSexual Behavior in the Human Maleâ€ť and a 1928 edition of The Well of Loneliness, and the first book written about lesbians by an actual lesbian, The Grapevine by Jess Stearn. It contrasts events, such as the opening of the White Horse Bar in 1936, the first edition of a guide to gay bars in 1963, and the first documentary about LGBTQ people, the KQED-produced The Rejected, againstcultural dates like the 1976 invention of the first Apple computer. This lets the visitor realize the chasm between two parallel cultures â€“ gay and straight.
Other displays feature music samples, like original LPâ€™s by Cris Williamson alongside CDâ€™s by Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman and Tegan & Sara, and books like Tales of the City by Amistead Maupin, My Antonia by Willa Cather and Valencia by Michelle Tea. While some of the artifacts in the show may be intimately familiar, others offer fascinating tidbits of new information.
The exhibit was made possible by the Friends of the Bancroft Library with generous support of the Walter Haas Jr. Fund, which was also the first to support the freedom to marry movement. The Haas Fund enabled the multi-media component of the exhibit. Organizers also credited the FAIR act, which makes it possible that educators can use this exhibit to teach secondary school students about LGBTQ history. They also intended it to be a learning tool for students at UC Berkeley who may not have a strong background in LGBTQ issues and community.