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British Museum adds five priceless LGBT+ artefacts to its collection to improve diversity

Lily Wakefield June 21, 2020
British Museum LGBT+ artefacts

Japanese prints dating from 1600 to 1900 will be displayed, featuring the androgynous "wakashu" people, who were desired by both men and women.  (British Museum)

The British Museum has added five new LGBT+ artefacts to its collection, improving the diversity of its collection with priceless pieces of queer history.

The pieces, which will be permanently displayed at the museum, include a “nine-bob note” from the 2008 nightclub event Gay Shame Goes Macho.

The mock bank note features London gangster Ronnie Kray in place of the queen, and is a play on the phrase “queer as a nine-bob note”.

Ronnie Kray is featured on the “nine-bob note” in place of the queen. (British Museum)

Anther artefact that has been added to the collection is a bronze medal depicting a person known as the Chevalier d’Eon.

Born in 1728, the Chevalier d’Eon had an illustrious career as a French spy and diplomat. The Chevalier began appearing at Queen Elizabeth’s court as a woman, claiming to have been assigned female at birth, and demanding to be recognised as such by the French government.

They were such a well-known figure that the term “eonism” was for some time a reference to those displaying transgender or genderfluid characteristics.

Other pieces include a Greek coin showing the poet Sappho from Lesbos, a Roman lamp depicting lesbian sex and Japanese prints dating from 1600 to 1900 featuring the androgynous “wakashu” people, who were desired by both men and women.

Stuart Frost, head of interpretation and volunteers at the British Museum, told Gay Times: “We’re really pleased to be putting these five objects on permanent display as part of our ongoing efforts to better represent the full range of stories and identities that can be found in LGBT+ history.

“They join a number of other objects on permanent display that collectively demonstrate that same-sex love, desire and gender diversity have always been an integral part of the human experience.”

The British Museum is currently unable to open because of coronavirus lockdown measures, but Sarah Saunders, head of learning and national partnerships, added: “We’re really looking forward to reopening as soon as it is safe to do so, and restarting our hugely popular LGBT+ tours.”

 

More: artefacts, british museum, chevalier d'eon, LGBT, nine-bob note, queer history, tours

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