The British Museum has begun to offer tours of artifacts significant to the LGBTI community.
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These treasures include an 11,000 year old carving of a couple making love, a genderfluid depiction of a Babylonian deity (circa 1800 BC), busts of the Roman emperor Hadrian with his lover Antinous, and more.
One of the most exciting objects on display is the Warren Cup, a Roman drinking vessel considered a holy grail of gay history. This is due to its carvings of racy, phallic imagery. The British Museum purchased the Warren Cup for £1.8m [$2,253,958.20; €2,006,811.68], making it the most expensive item the museum had ever acquired.
The guided tour initiative builds on the museum’s existing LGBTI audio tours.
‘We’ll see how they go, see what the demand is,’ said Sarah Saunders, head of learning and national programs at the British Museum. ‘The more demand there is, the more we’ll do. It is really exciting.’
According to Saunders, all the items included in the tour demonstrate ‘that same-sex love and desire and gender diversity have always been an integral part of human experience. But that the way they have been expressed has varied widely around the world and over time.’
On Thursday 4 July, eight solid silver cups cast in the shape of the Warren Cup were unveiled at the museum’s Enlightenment gallery. These ‘Pride Cups’ are each a different color of the original Rainbow Pride flag. They were created by silversmith Hal Messel, and will be sold with the proceeds going to LGBTI charity Stonewall.
For Messel, this project was about ‘tackling assumptions and raising awareness around how gender identity and sexual orientation continue to remain on the fringes of so much contemporary art.’
He noted how some consider the Warren Cup more evocative today than it would have been 2,000 years ago, when it was created.
🌈 The Warren Cup has been reimagined in rainbow colours to coincide with #Pride2019
— British Museum (@britishmuseum) July 6, 2019
‘For something as establishment as the British Museum to get behind this is is incredibly powerful,’ Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt told The Guardian. ‘This project has helped spark an important conversation about how attitudes have changed. And how much work there is still left to do.’
Learn more about the British Museum’s LGBTI tours on their website.