Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

10,000 Years of LGBTQ+ History

BCE to LGBTQ+, Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, chronicles 10,000 years of LGBTQ+ history in the human species throughout the vast range of history in an astonishing global timeline. This unprecedented exhibition of images, literature, artifacts (original antiquities and replicas), and lively narrative will trace the prodigious documentation of this aspect of humankind’s nature from paleolithic rock art through ancient civilizations to Stonewall, Gay Pride Celebrations, and the international acceptance of same-sex relationships in family, social, and civic life. BCE to LGBTQ+ will engage new audiences in conversations about the LGBTQ+ experience including notable participants in art, science, and literature alongside conquerors, warriors, royalty, entertainers, politicians, sports figures, activists, and the unidentified all of whom have contributed to human society and culture, and how the effects of religion, politics, and economics have influenced the experience throughout the millennia to the present. The LGBTQ+ World History Museum’s BCE to LGBTQ+ provides a permanent, one-of-a-kind exhibition in the Greater Palm Springs area and the first of its kind in the state of California offering a uniquely immersive and transformative understanding of LGBTQ+ history to residents throughout Southern California and Greater Palm Springs visitors from around the world. A chronological journey through the history of LGBTQ+ identity and culture over the last 10,000 years, will include a survey of artifacts and installations that highlight key turning points and historical figures throughout the history of the LGBTQ+ experience.

Unlike other LGBTQ+ museums whose concentration is the history of struggles and triumphs of their local communities, the LGBTQ+ World History Museum’s BCE to LGBTQ+, Out of the Darkness, Into the Light – 10,000 Years of LGBTQ+ History is a rare universal overview of the history of LGBTQ+ identity and community from the ancient world to the present. This unique exhibition will engage visitors in an interactive narrative in which they travel through the ancient world into the common era. This exhibition will illuminate homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ experience allowing the viewer to grasp how our current contemporary societal interpretations of same-sex orientation and sexual nonconformity emerged, and likewise how they differ from pre-historic, ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance, and other historical periods’ understanding of these topics. In this way, the exhibition allows the viewer to grasp the causality, complexity, and context of sexual nonconformity and orientation as they view the artifacts, timelines, and figures that demonstrate the exhibition themes.

The curatorial team is headed by Dr. Andrew Lear, American author, professor of gender and sexuality, and founder of Oscar Wilde Tours, the first company to organize tours of international museums focusing on gay history and LGBTQ themes in art. Dr. Lear has teaching experience at Harvard, Columbia, Pomona College, and NYU, and has won the Harvard Certificate for Excellence in Teaching four times. Dr. Walter Penrose, Associate Professor in the Department of History at San Diego State University, specializes in the History of Gender and Sexuality in Ancient Greek, Hellenistic, and South Asian contexts. He is the author of several books on the subject. Professor Emerita in the Department of European Studies at San Diego State University. Dr. Edith Benkov, also at San Diego State University, worked on the LGBTQ studies major and is co-director of the LGBTQ Research Consortium and a valuable team member. Travis Armstrong, JD, MA, RPA, an Indigenous American who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, brings strong museum knowledge to the project as curator of Native American Cultures at the Fowler Museum. Dr. Cassandra Langer, author of 10 award-winning books as well as the author of several magazine and newspaper articles is a professor at Hunter and Queens Colleges, Associate Professor, Art History/Criticism, and LGBTQ Studies, at Columbia University, and a Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow, a graduate of NYU who studied at Harvard and Columbia rounds out the curatorial team. Each team member brings to the project a strong record of publication on the subject and a specialized knowledge of an era or civilization and how the LGBTQ community was viewed. To assist the curatorial team an advisory group is being formed to further strengthen the exhibition’s conceptual development, object choices, organization, and articulation of its humanities themes. Each will be asked to contribute one or more essays to the companion scholarly publication, along with brief but informative descriptions of artifacts.

As the field of LGBTQ+ historical research expands, so too has the need for educational and interactive spaces that explore LGBTQ+ identity across history. This is particularly critical for the Greater Palm Springs area, which has a rich and storied LGBTQ+ population, but a critical deficit of museums and historical engagement opportunities. This exhibit is designed as purely historical in nature and will be “family-friendly,” without sexually explicit imagery, or thematic elements.

Religious and LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Intersex) movements have long been in conflict. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism have struggled with accepting and blessing same-sex relationships because their respective holy texts speak of abomination and sin in relation to non-heteronormative relationships. That was not always the case in human history. The LGBTQ+ World History Museum in association with the Museum of Ancient Wonders’ mission is to provide historical context for how we live our lives today.

BCE to LGBTQ+ exhibition offers a broadly global and historical context to LGBTQ+ identity. Rather than offering a localized perspective on LGBTQ+ identity, the exhibition will instead provide a storied and broad journey across time and space that allows visitors to contextualize their own local identities and understandings within broader global contexts and nuances – demonstrating change across the time and the historical threads from 10,000 years ago to the present. This differentiates its key goals, themes, and narratives from other LGTBQ+ history exhibitions and archival projects throughout the state and nation.

BCE to LGBTQ+, Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, is currently being considered for a planning grant from the National Endowment For The Humanities, Washington, D.C.