The Smithsonian’s Queer Collection

Over the summer, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., announced the expansion of its LGBT collection. “As cultural sensitivities and politics have changed,” curator Katherine Ott says, “now seemed like an opportune time to more aggressively, directly, and openly collect LGBT materials.”

Dating back to the 19th century, the archive includes historical treasures across several disciplines, including medicine and science, political history, culture and the arts, and the armed forces. Standout items include a tennis racket from transgender maverick Renée Richards, who famously won a New York Supreme Court case against the United States Tennis Association, ensuring that she and other trans players would be allowed to compete as their reassigned sex; protest signs from activist Frank Kameny, the co-founder, in 1961, of D.C.’s Mattachine Society, a gay advocacy group; the original transgender pride flag, designed by trans woman Monica Helms in 1999; a tennis dress worn by Grand Slam superstar Billie Jean King; and memorabilia from the set of Will and Grace, the groundbreaking TV show that helped bring gay awareness to households across the nation.

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