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Plan for Washington DC national LGBT museum

If a group of US philanthropists have their way the United States will have an LGBT specific national museum in the nation’s capital by 2018
A young James Smithson in 1786
Photo by the Smithsonian Institute

A group of philanthropists hopes to open a museum for LGBT people’s stories in Washington DC by 2018 and hopes to raise $50 million to $100 million towards that goal in the next few years.

The Velvet Foundation has been working on the idea of a National LGBT Museum along the lines of civil rights museums to other groups in America since 2007 and recently set up a donation campaign towards the effort.

The museum’s planners hope to tell the story of LGBT people in America from the very first colonists who treated sodomy as a capital crime, to the beginnings of independence when Thomas Jefferson replaced the death penalty for homosexuality with castration - all the way through to the founding of the US’s first gay rights group the Mattachine Society, the Stonewall Riots, the AIDS crisis and the recent gains in LGBT rights around marriage and the military.

The museum is the brainchild of couple Tim and Mitchell Gold who set up the Velvet Foundation in 2007 as a charitable fund dedicated to ‘creating the National LGBT Museum in Washington DC.’

Tim Gold is a former employee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum and got the idea for a LGBT museum after he had the idea of doing an exhibit on the philanthropist who had established the Smithsonian.

‘I thought we could do a great exhibition on James Smithson, who is the benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution,’ Gold told Slate.

However Gold said the museum’s curators knocked back the idea, ‘because he was British, and he was potentially gay, and that doesn’t really fit into what they wanted to project.’

Smithson died unmarried and childless in 1829 and left his estate to the founding of an educational institute in Washington DC although he had never visited the United States.

The plans for the museum include a permanent ‘Here I Am’ exhibition, a section for changing exhibitions on different topics, an archive and research center, a meeting space and theater, and a bar, museum store and restaurant.

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