6 Museums to Visit for LGBTQ History Month

These museums and archives are devoted to everything queer—from historic figures to fetish gear, the AIDS epidemic, and more.

The U.S. has observed LGBTQ History Month every October since 1994 (the date chosen by the original organizers to coincide with National Coming Out Day already held on October 11.) To celebrate, we can think of nothing better than to immerse ourselves in the triumphs, struggles, and achievements of those who came before us. Here, six places dedicated to our collective queer history that are worth checking out:

  1. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Since 1985, the GLBT Historical Society has amassed and preserved tens of thousands of periodicals, photographs, posters, oral histories, fine and graphic arts, artifacts, and more that document queer history. Current exhibits cover subjects as diverse as the Briggs Initiative—a 1978 California ballot proposition that would have prevented LGBT people and allies from teaching in public schools—to the graphic works of queer artist Rex Ray. 4127 18th Street, San Francisco, California..

  2. Touted as the world’s only outdoor museum of its kind, The Legacy Walk currently displays bronze memorials honoring 38 influential LGBTQ figures who have significantly impacted world history and culture. What’s especially great is that honorees range from the well known (Harvey Milk, Walt Whitman, and Frida Kahlo, for example) to the lesser known (David Kato, Margaret Chung, and Antonia Pantoja.) 3245-3707 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois.

  3. Photo courtesy of the Leather Archives & Museum

    The Leather Archives & Museum, also in Chicago, has dedicated itself to the collection and preservation of objects and information connected to the leather, kink, and fetish lifestyle. A self-guided tour of the museum will bring you face-to-face with a rich history that includes leather bar memorabilia, a multimedia presentation on boot blacking, murals by erotic artist Etienne, a display of biker jackets, vintage leather magazines, and so much more. 6418 N. Greenview Ave., Chicago, Illinois.

  4. Photo by Steven Shires

    Although certainly not exclusive to the LGBTQ community, the AIDS epidemic has been intrinsically tied to our history, and The World AIDS Museum and Educational Center is the only museum in the world dedicated to its story. Visitors will find ongoing exhibits on a variety of HIV/AIDS-related topics, as well as a historical timeline that follows the progression of the epidemic against the context of key world events. 1201 NE 26th Street, Wilton Manors, Florida.

  5. The Leslie-Lohman Museum is the only art museum solely dedicated to preserving and displaying artwork specifically documenting the LGBTQ experience. The museum traces back to 1969 when Fritz Lohman and Charles Leslie used their Soho loft as a gallery for their the first exhibit of personally collected gay art. In 2016, that collection (and what had been added since) became accredited as a museum. Today, the Leslie-Lohman Museum boasts 30,000 works by thousands of queer artists dating back more than three centuries. Current exhibits include works by artist Alex Schmidt and photographer Donna Gottschalk. 26 Wooster Street, New York, New York.

  6. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California (USC) Libraries is the largest repository of LGBTQ material in the world. As a complement to the collection, the Archives opened its West Hollywood ONE Gallery space to host additional exhibitions. Coming up next is Distortions, a series of surreal photographs that distort the human form, from artist Michael Childers. 626 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, California.

Bryan van Gorder usually writes about the places he's been or the famous people forced to talk to him.
@bvangorder