Online gay museum opens for business

Tony Grew April 21, 2008
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Museum professionals have feted the launch of the online national LGBT museum Proud Heritage.

The website has its first working day open to the public today.

Nick Poole, Director of the Collections Trust, which is responsible for setting the standards in British museums, welcomed the online museum.

“We applaud Proud Heritage on the work achieved already, and we look forward to a successful first few years,” he said.

“Proud Heritage is not only an important step forward for the UK’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“It is also leading the way in showing the cultural heritage sector how we can work more openly with all communities.

“The Collections Trust believes that everyone everywhere should have the right to access and benefit from cultural heritage. Proud Heritage is an outstanding example of how culture can help people connect.”

Sharon Ament, Director of Public Engagement at The Natural History Museum, added:

“The Natural History Museum really values diversity, both natural diversity and cultural diversity. We are supportive of initiatives such as Proud Heritage and recognise the value that gay and lesbian people make to culture and scientific endeavour, this contribution merits wider recognition and deeper exploration.”

Plans for a physical museum were discussed at the Stonewall hustings for the candidates for Mayor of London on Saturday and received the backing of all candidates taking part.

Incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is seeking a third term in office as the Labour candidate, said that it would cost “tens of millions” of pounds.

Tory challenger Boris Johnson said his proposed new Mayor’s Fund For London, which will encourage City institutions and rich individuals to help community projects, may be a good way of funding the project.

Welcoming their support for the project, Proud Heritage’s executive director Jack Gilbert told that there would need to be a commitment from the Mayor to pay for feasibility studies and research required to put the bid together.

Impact business plans need to be produced showing the benefits to London in terms of community cohesion and tourism.

He added that it is vital the London Development Agency, which is under the control of the Mayor, show real commitment to the project.

In past meetings the LDA has said there are “no clear avenues” to support the project, said Mr Gilbert.

“The LDA should be prepared to put their cash in alongside the Heritage Lottery money. The museum will be a major benefit to London,” he told

However, he is excited about that the online museum is up and running.

“This is more than just a staging post to creating a physical presence, which our clear goal,” he said.

“Proud Heritage is seeking to reformulate how a museum can be in the 21st Century.

“The launch of the online museum is the first public step in what has already been a three-year journey to create a national museum reflecting British lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans history and cultural ancestry in all its rich diversity.

“It’s cutting edge, and not just for being queer!

“The internet creates new ways to collect, share and exhibit our own life experiences, local history and collective memory. Together.

“It will help develop professional and community networks, disseminate ideas and good practices, and help build regional collections. But most of all it makes collecting, interpreting and exhibiting a shared, interactive experience combining documents, objects and user generated content, including images and video.”

Among the innovative features of the Proud Heritage website is a unique project, Walking Proud in London, the world’s first queer Googlemap for the capital.

The online museum has been developed with leading international agency, Thoughtworks.

Allen Gahn, Client Principal from ThoughtWorks, said:

“Being involved in and enabling the daily evolution of an organisation’s vision is exciting and challenging, and in Proud Heritage, that is combined with a cause we are delighted to support. A genuinely entrepreneurial endeavour, there is potential for Proud Heritage to pave the way for a new generation of museums.”

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