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Coronavirus delays San Fran’s new LGBT+ museum but the dream is still alive

Coronavirus delays San Fran’s new LGBT+ museum but the dream is still alive

  • Meanwhile the historical society is putting its museum online, starting with a new Gilbert Baker exhibition.
San Francisco's LGBT+ History Museum.

San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society is delaying its plans for a major new museum due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Instead, the organization will focus on creating a virtual museum and archives.

However, the society’s executive director Terry Beswick promises the dream of a larger physical museum is not dead. He said the project, which will cost tens of millions of dollars, will still go ahead. But it may take five or 10 years before it becomes a reality.

The society currently houses its collection, gathered over more than 30 years, in a 1,600 square foot museum. It’s located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District – globally famous for its rich queer past.

But the lease on that building is up in 2022. Beswick had hoped to move to a temporary 10,800 square foot space at 2355 Market Street, near Castro and 17th Streets.

And in due course it would make the move to a permanent new building. Feasibility studies showed the new museum and archive would require a 40,000 square feet building. It would include around 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, and attract 106,000 visitors per year.

But with funding likely to be short as the city recovers from coronavirus, Beswick has given up on that temporary space too.

‘Building what our history demands and our community deserves’

Speaking to local LGBT+ title Bay Area Reporter, Beswick said:

‘We don’t see a virtual museum as being an adequate substitute for an in-person museum. Yet I have to recognize opening a museum of a larger scale is not within our reach in the short term.

‘And I am not even sure our current small museum that we have boarded up right now — if we are going to be able to open that up this year.’

However, they are not giving up on the larger museum. Beswick intends to be prudent and see what happens to real estate prices post pandemic. And he promises to take time to get the project right, rather than downscaling the society’s vision.

‘I would really like to think of our eventual brick-and-mortar, full-scale museum as being what I think our history demands and our community deserves, rather than what we can get away with. I don’t know what that is going to look like.’

Meanwhile, Beswick says the museum is able to continue operating short term, continuing to employ its staff despite lockdown. However any financial crunch may come towards the end of the year after missing a summer of fundraising opportunities.

And while you can’t visit the museum in person, you can check out their new exhibition on Rainbow Flag creator Gilbert Baker which they have put online.