Monday, October 26, 2009

Preserving GLBT Historic Sites

When I've had opportunities to speak publicly about the need to diversify the historic preservation movement, I always made sure to say that GLBT related historic places needed to be designated as historic sites and/or preserved. It is no secret that the preservation world is one of the most GLBT friendly, but that interest and expertise has not been put to the most effective use when it comes to preserving GLBT related historic sites.

That is beginning to change. I think that it is important for Americans to realize just how deep the GLBT presence in this country happens to be, and the best way to show that is through historic places. For example, I was proud when the National Trust for Historic Preservation, upon acquiring Philip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut, made sure to identify it as a site with a significant GLBT historical relationship (and if you have not had the pleasure of visiting the site, I highly recommend that you visit it; stunningly beautiful is an understatement).

There are so many people and places that are important to telling the American story that are tied to the GLBT community. Dr. Franklin Kameny's home was recently landmarked in Washington, DC, a first for a GLBT site in the city. I just saw this post on Towleroad, regarding Natalie Barney of Dayton, Ohio, who was a lesbian author based in Paris. And of course, the Stonewall Inn is a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation for an historic site for its significance on the nation.

Clearly, there are a number of other places that can be identified and landmarked, if not saved to highlight and preserve our GLBT history. Personally, I would love to see a place related to Bayard Rustin designated. What about the founding site of the Daughters of Bilitis? Has it been identified for possible designation?

I hope that more professionals and practitioners within the preservation movement, particularly the GLBT folks within it, will really put their considerable talents and skills to pushing for the preservation of GLBT historic sites. Organizations like the Rainbow History Project have been doing the research to identify potential places for preserving. We in the preservation community need to follow their lead with preservation action.

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