Exhibitions and Programming

Your museum, as a trusted institution for the production of knowledge, has an opportunity an opportunity to develop exhibitions and programming that make issues of gender and sexual more visible and so encourage the inclusion and acceptance of all peoples. Fortunately, there are museum workers who have done trailblazing work towards providing information and instruction on how museums might both queer their approach to exhibition development, and shape programming that respects and centers queer individuals. The KINQ (Knowledge Industries Need Queering) Manifesto by Craig Middleton & Nikki Sullivan might serve as an informative resource in revising collections and exhibition practice towards a more gender and sex inclusive approach. The popular Museopunks podcast has an episode about “Queering your Museum” featuring Sullivan and Middleton, which provides a general introduction to how museum workers might incorporate a more queer approach to the operation of their museum. 

Canadian Museum for Human Rights with Rainbow Lighting for 2013 Pride
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights lit up for Pride in 2013. 
Aaron Cohen/CMHR. Source: Insider.com


Of late, there have been excellent exhibits that center queer lives, histories, and creators. Also, there are curators who are generating interpretations that call attention to the historical presence of queer art and history. In addition, Andy Horn, the Exhibitions Manager at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery created the Queering the Museum Brochure which provides a great example of how to do this important work of interpreting art and artifacts through a queer lens. It is important to note here that incorporating queer perspectives benefits everyone. Attending to the experience and recognition of individuals with multiple intersecting identities, like a trans person of color for example, will improve the experience of individuals with fewer marginalized identities because their identities are represented, too.

Museums are changing their approach to creating gender equity in museums. An opinion piece by Sofia Cotrona challenges the all-women-artist exhibition approach in favor of one that centers greater intersectionality. Museum education professional Lindsey Steward’s essay on Gender Equity in Museums is also thought provoking.

Visitors in a museum gallery looking at large colorful portraits
Visitors at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Source: renaissancereframed.com

Programming and Visitor Experience

The Feminist Arts Coalition is an organization that connects feminist art projects to art institutions that seek to promote equity and structural change. Their “Notes on Feminisms” page contains essays that are useful for cultural institutions looking to approach their program development from feminist perspectives. Finally, the Association of Science and Technology Centers’ 2020 report on gender representation in their sector provides quality analytical data that will “help your museum benchmark who is depicted in your content and take steps towards ensuring equitable representation.”

The LGBTQ Alliance, a professional network within the American Alliance of Museums, published the Welcoming Guidelines for Museums, and pages 46-51 specifically include information on how to improve and evaluate LGBTQIA+ guest experience. In addition, educators, artists, and youth activists working with the Brooklyn Museum have written about the planning and evaluation involved in developing LGBTQ+ teen programming, which improved the experience of multiple marginalized groups at the museum. If the exhibits, programming, collections, and workplace environment are more attentive to issues of gender and sexuality, the visitor experience of individuals from marginalized genders and sexualities will be improved as well, as all of these factors influence visitor experience.