Oxford’s LGBTIQA+ history to be highlighted in Museum of Oxford exhibition

Published: Thursday, 28th February 2019

The history of Oxford’s LGBTIQA+ community is to be highlighted in an exhibition at the Museum of Oxford.

The Museum of Oxford’s Hidden Histories redevelopment has been awarded a £9,930 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund towards the museum’s ‘Oxford Revisited’ project. The project will highlight Oxford’s LGBTIQA+ history through a community exhibition and activity programme.

The exhibition - which will be created in partnership between the Museum of Oxford, Oxford Pride, Tales of Our City, and members of the community - aims to explore Oxford’s LGBTIQA+ history through sharing the objects and stories collected by the community. 

The exhibition will be displayed in the museum’s current Micro-Museum space in Oxford Town Hall from September 2019 until Christmas 2019, with a permanent exhibition to be installed in the redeveloped museum in 2020.

Over the last five years, the proportion of the UK population identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) has increased from 1.5 per cent in 2012 to 2.0 per cent in 2017. In the South East, 2.2 per cent of the population identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (ONS). 

The 2011 Census showed that there were 1,200 Oxford residents living in a same-sex couple, either cohabiting or as a civil partnership. This was 1.1 per cent of the adult household population, just above the England average of 0.9 per cent.

Oxford Pride - which was founded in 2003 - is a celebration of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and queer life in Oxfordshire. The charity aims to promote awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and provide information, education and entertainment in a welcoming and inclusive environment. Oxford Pride Parade and Pride Day takes place the first weekend of June following two weeks of festival events.

The Tales of Our City project - which started in 2017 - aims to create an audio and visual archive about queer life in Oxford over the past 60 years through interviewing members of the local LGBT+ community and collecting objects of interest.

In October last year, the Museum of Oxford opened a new micro-museum, which displays objects from the museum’s ‘Explore Oxford’ gallery. It is currently hosting its first free community exhibition - The Windrush Years - Next Generations – which was created in partnership with ACHKI (Afrikan Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative) and BK LUWO is currently open until Saturday 23 March.

The micro-museum space will also allow visitors to find out more about the Museum of Oxford’s Hidden Histories redevelopment.

The £3.2m Oxford Hidden Histories redevelopment will see the old museum, which was partially closed in 2011, transformed to increase the size and the number of objects on display from 286 to around 750.

The project aims to create an award-winning museum and heritage events space in the centre of Oxford. It will tell the often-overlooked story of Oxford, its people and its communities through interactive displays, temporary exhibitions, objects and new oral histories.

Technical design and the relocation of some of the exhibits started in summer 2018; with construction due to commence in summer 2019 and the new museum space opening by summer 2020.

The Museum of Oxford Development Trust was granted charity status by the Charities Commission in July 2017, which allows it to receive gift aid, and raise funds to support the improvement of facilities, collections, exhibitions, learning opportunities and advocate for the museum’s stories and its services.

The total amount raised towards the £450,000 fundraising target now stands at £102,795.

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Board Member for Culture and the City Centre, said: “The Museum of Oxford’s Hidden Histories redevelopment aims to tell the stories of the people of Oxford and the communities that they are a part of. I am delighted that as part of this redevelopment we will be exploring the LGBTIQA+ history of Oxford and bringing to light the experiences of those who are a part of the community.”

Councillor Richard Howlett, Co-founder of Tales of our City said: “We are delighted to be working with the Museum of Oxford on this project. Oxford has a queer history to be proud of - but it’s a history hidden in people’s attics, filing cabinets and memories. We look forward to helping bring it to life through this exhibition.”

Debbie Brixey, Chair of Oxford Pride said: “We were thrilled to be asked to be part of this project. Oxford Pride with its Parade, Pride Day and Festival has become a popular event throughout the city and we look forward to exploring what shaped the community to make this happen.”