The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center Opens a Stonewall Exhibit
It’s October, which is LGBTQ+ History Month. The history of history month itself, is that it was founded by a history teacher. He came out to his class while teaching about the Holocaust, saying that he would have had to wear a pink triangle. The pink triangle was what gay men who were at Nazis concentration camps during the Holocaust. Here’s a tiktok about this piece of LGBTQ+ history: https://www.tiktok.com/@rainbowhistoryclass/video/7013635583184538881?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1
So it’s fitting that the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center would open an exhibit about Stonewall during LGBTQ+ History Month . The exhibit is called “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement“. It is a travelling exhibit created by the Freedom Forum in Washington, D.C. It fits well with the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s mission to “remember the past and transform the future”. LGBTQ+ rights issues are human rights issues, after all.
“Rise Up” starts with a video of LGBTQ+ people talking about their experiences and the fight for equality. Then there is information of LGBTQ+ society in the 50’s and 60’s. The exhibit explains the details of the Stonewall Uprising, a riot that started at The Stonewall Inn in 1969 when LGBTQ+ patrons of the gay bar resisted arrest. This uprising has led to the pride protests and parades in June that we know today. There are artifacts like news articles and a cast-signed copy of the stript of Philadelphia. There is also a section on popular culture. “Rise Up” reminds us that the struggle that is not over with the fight for bathrooms for trans people and the frequent murders of transgender people, especially transgender women of color. They mention importance of passing the Equality Act which would make it illegal to discriminate against someone for the gender identity or sexuality. The exhibit is also interacteractive with questions about LGBTQ+ that visitors can answer, and see what other visitors responses were. Then they can learn more about the particular topic by watching a video.
I had the opportunity to talk to Chief Curator Arielle Weininger and Director of Education Leah Rauch about the exhibit. They tell me that the exhibit does not get into the debate about who started Stonewall, rather focusing on the events itself and individuals who were key to the LGBTQ+ rights movement as a whole, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Harvey Milk.
Leah Rauch says her favorite artifact in the exhibit is the record album “Lesbian Concentrate” by Olivia Records. It was made in protest of Anita Bryant. She was anti-gay activist who sold orange juice. So “Lesbian Concentrate” is making an ironic point. Sounds very fruity to me!
Arielle Weininger pointed out an original copy GLF News as one of her favorite artifacts. GLF stands for the “Gay and Lesbian Defense Fund”, and an LGBTQ+ rights group and publication. Weininger says that she likes all of the publications that are kept as artifacts in the exhibit because they’re an important part of LGBTQ+ history.
She also points out protest signs from more recent protest for the right to same-sex marriage, which are interesting to compare to older LGBTQ+ rights protest signs. These newer artifacts remind visitors that history is still happening.
Rauch and Weininger say that this exhibit was really meaningful to them because it tells the history of a marginalized group that doesn’t often get told. They say they think it’s going to help a lot of people.
Weininger tells me that a member of the advisory commitee for “Rise Up” said that this exhibit was going to save lives. Weininger says when they put up the exhibit, she realized it was true. Seeing the exhibit has already made some visitors very emotional. Rauch and Weininger are both very excited for field trips to visit the exhibit, since education often doesn’t include LGBTQ+ history, although it is required in the state of Illinois They feel the experience of seeing the exhibit will be very affirming for LGBTQ+ visitors, as well as for allies who want to learn more. I certainly found that to be true, as a bisexual person myself.
They invite visitors to come and learn at “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement“. It will be open from October 17th, 2021 to May 8th 2022 in Skokie, Illinois. Those interested can order tickets on the Illinois Holocaust’s Museum’s website, link above. Also, you can learn more about supporting the Equality Act from this video.
“Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement” was developed by the Newseum. The Newseum is an affiliate of the Freedom Forum, who’s mission is to foster First Amendment freedoms for all. freedomforum.org