Beyond the Binary

Queering and Questioning Collections and Displays at the Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers museum is committed to standing as an ally with LGBTQ+ communities and creating space for self-representation. Through consultation with community partners, and building on work developed in 2016-2018 through the Out in Oxford LGBTQ+ museums trail initiative, funding has been secured for Beyond the Binary. Thanks to a new grant of £91,200 by the Heritage Lottery fund, the project will work with local, national and international partners to explore the global diversity of sexual and gender identities.

Working with a broad range of partners, from researchers to community activists, the project will challenge historical interpretations of the museum’s collections – offering alternative understandings from people with different identities as well as identifying human histories that are unrepresented as a result of intolerance. This is so that no individual or group feels excluded from the museum because of their sexuality or gender, and so that all visitors – however they might identify themselves – can understand humanity better.

In addition to exploring the existing collections, this project will include a community-focussed acquisition programme for LGBTQ+ cultural and historical artefacts. Objects will be collected from British communities and across the globe that highlight traditions of gender non-conformity, bringing British LGBTQ+ heritage into conversation with global LGBTQ+ material culture.

Michelle Roffe, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund for South East England, said: “We are proud to support this important collaboration between the Pitt Rivers Museum and Oxford’s LGBTQ+ communities. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project will record and share historically underrepresented stories through new and existing collections, ensuring that the Museum engages with and represents more of the diverse histories of Oxford, the UK and the wider world.”

Keep an eye on this webpage for information on the project as it develops and for information on opportunities to get involved. Although the specific emphasis of this project is to provide opportunities for, and develop partnerships with, LGBTQ+ stakeholders, the project and the project outcomes are open to all. 

For more information, or to get involved, email beyondbinary@prm.ox.ac.uk

Follow the project on Twitter and search the hastag #pittbeyondbinary

Project Aims

  1. Collaborate with partners to bring varied LGBTQ+ lived experiences, stories and histories into the heart of the Pitt Rivers Museum 
  2. Be a space in which difficult histories, including the impact of colonialism on ‘queer’ lives across the globe, can be reflected on, acknowledged and the legacy of colonialism in the present, including in the museum space, disrupted 
  3. Work co-creatively with local, national and international partners to highlight human histories that are currently under-represented in the Pitt Rivers Museum and at heritage sites in general 
  4. Develop and test an ethical framework for collecting by working with partners to acquire new items that highlight and celebrate traditions of gender and sexuality ‘non-conformity’, and items that communicate the continuing impact of colonial ways of categorising and regulating sex and gender in today’s world
  5. Explore the effectiveness of adopting a non-binary approach to curating, collecting and museum engagement work, where questioning and a multiplicity of perspectives within interpretation is central, and a singular curatorial voice and presenting absolute answers is challenged  
  6. Shape Pitt Rivers Museum as a welcoming space so that no individual or group feels excluded from the museum because of their sexuality or gender, and so that all visitors, however they might identify themselves – can understand humanity better 
  7. Co-creative approaches will inform all areas of work, with project partners shaping all areas of the project in meaningful ways
  8. Takeover the museum’s programming, collaborating with community partners to develop events, activities and interventions that will generate awareness and visibility of LGBTQ+ heritage
  9. Recognising the museum’s limitations and gaps in our knowledge, expertise and experience, we’ll work with partners to examine our own practices and biases, and to ensure that expertise from people with LGBTQ+ lived experiences shape the project as it develops
  10. Ensure that learning from the project will inform not only the policies and practices of the Pitt Rivers Museum, but also our partnership museums locally and nationally

Other LGBTQ+ focused initiatives

 

Providing space for youth groups

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As part of the museum’s commitment to standing as a visible ally with LGBTQ+ communities, space is provided every month for LGBTQ+ youth groups to meet, socialise and be together. On the second Saturday of most months, Oxfordshire based organisations Topaz and My Normal host workshops and informal drop-in sessions at the museum. Museum staff also support these groups to stage takeover activities at the museum where they can connect and share experiences with the wider community.

Contact the groups directly for more information about the monthly sessions or check our What’s On pages for takeover events. 

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