August 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Smithsonian accepts new LGBT memorabilia
Smithsonian, gay news, Washington Blade

Several items from the groundbreaking show ‘Will & Grace’ are among new objects accepted by the Smithsonian. (Photo of Eric McCormack by Tim Ronca; photo of Debra Messing by David Shankbone. Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History on Tuesday officially accepted a “significant” number of objects and archival materials related to LGBT history, including items from the NBC TV series Will & Grace, according to a statement released by the museum.

The statement says the items include, in addition to the Will & Grace material, a tennis racket belonging to transgender tennis star Renee Richards, the original transgender pride flag, and the diplomatic passports of gay former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner and his spouse, Duane McWaine.

“The pursuit of civil rights in America is woven throughout our history,” museum director John Gray said in a statement. “It is a tale of struggle and accomplishment as the nation strives to fulfill its ideals. We are grateful to our donors for assisting us to fulfill our mission to help the public understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more human future,” he said.

The statement didn’t say if or when the new material would be placed on public display at the museum, which is located next to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. A museum spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The statement says among those attending a donation ceremony held at the museum on Tuesday were Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick; transgender flag designer Monica Helms; D.C. photographer Patsy Lynch; Florida photographer Silvia Ross; former D.C. Rainbow History Project official Mark Meinke. Also present, the statement says, were representatives of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland and the D.C. Cowboys, a gay dance group – all of whom donated items to the museum.

“These donations join the museum’s collections of more than 3 million objects and archival materials,” the history museum’s statement says.

“The museum’s LGBT collections date back to the 19th century. Objects in the collections include a selection of protest signs from gay civil rights activist Frank Kameny, materials relating to the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, Billie Jean King’s tennis dress and HIV and AIDS-related lab equipment and medications.”

Other LGBT-related items include history displays marking the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City and a display during the 10th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

“The museum has also collected materials that express opposition to LGBT issues, including protest posters associated with the Westboro Baptist Church, a copy of The Anita Bryant Story, and materials in opposition to gay marriage,” says the statement.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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