The LGBTQ community in Connecticut has been centuries in the making. To highlight the personal experiences, legal milestones, and communal push into open society, The Connecticut Historical Society has developed a new traveling exhibit and digital timeline telling the state’s unique LGBTQ story. The exhibit, which was developed in collaboration with Central Connecticut State University, will be displayed at the CHS June 13-August 3, 2019. The digital timeline, which will be available at chs.org/lgbtq and which will include opportunities for individuals to include their own stories, will launch in time for Hartford Pride on September 14, 2019.
The traveling exhibit is made up of eight colorful banners that build on a visual history originally created by students at CCSU under the direction of History Professor William J. Mann (who also serves as the director of the school’s LGBT Center). Inspired by research conducted by Richard Nelson for a 1999 LGBTQ history exhibit, students delved into the CCSU’s comprehensive collection of books, papers, and memorabilia documenting the history of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community in Greater Hartford and Connecticut. The CHS expanded this effort with materials from its own collection and archive to complete a broad overview and retelling of Connecticut’s LGBTQ story.
“This traveling exhibit is filled with compelling stories of how LGBTQ people in Connecticut struggled against oppression for centuries before finally being able to move from an underground existence to an open community,” said Ilene Frank, chief curator at the CHS. “We recognize this as an important part of our state’s history and welcome the chance to bring this message to visitors here at the CHS and at other locations throughout the state. We added in the digital component as a permanent part of our CHS website to allow the exhibit to expand even more and reflect the very real stories of Connecticut’s people.”
The banners will be available to any school, library, or other organization for a small fee to display publicly throughout the state. Its first installation was at the Elihu Burritt Library at CCUS, followed by a display at the Out Film CT festival which was held earlier this month at Trinity College’s Cinestudio and other locations around Hartford.
The exhibit and digital timeline was made possible with financial support from the community, including Louis Lista & Paul DeVeau, Duff Ashmead & Eric Ort, Dan Sullivan & Rob Biddleman, Retirement Planning Group, Out CT Film, Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective, DeVars-Phillips Florist and Antiques, and CLARO/Hartford Capital City Pride.
The Connecticut Historical Society (www.chs.org) is a private, not-for-profit educational organization that includes a museum, library, and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center. Founded in 1825, the CHS is the state’s official historical society and one of the oldest in the nation. The CHS, a Smithsonian Affiliate, works to connect visitors to the story of Connecticut, and to help create a society that values historical perspective and understanding as essential tools in shaping communities and making informed decisions. To accomplish that, the CHS has collected more than 4 million manuscripts, graphics, books, artifacts, and other historical materials related to Connecticut’s social, cultural, and family history – which are available to the public onsite at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford, off-site at other locations, and online.