Saturday, 8 January 2011

LGBT History workshop at the Museum of London

The following was written as part of a workshop on blogging LGBT history at the Museum of London, organised by Untold London. After the visit described above, we were simply asked to blog something in 20min, hence the rough, rushed, not-really-thought-through nature of it (particularly the conclusion). I haven't had time to proofread or refine it.

There were a few strange looks but mostly people seemed oblivious. Amusingly some people looked actually rather pleasantly surprised to hear those words in such an unexpectedly place.

We were a group of about 30 people blocking the narrow spaces of the museum, there on a whistletour of the collections for some elusive glimpses at LGBT history. Our guide wasn't shy in using words as incongruous in those surroundings as homosexuality, gay and sodomy. Quite loudly too!

After being shown a bronze head of Hadrian which used to be part of a statue on London Bridge, we were moved on to a little alcove housing a head of the god Mithras. As our group emprisoned a pair of what looked like gay men in the small space, our guide launched into reading a ritual involving enthusiastic exclamations of adoration for the god. These, we were informed would only be uttered by young, viril and probably fairly sexually-unhinibited soldiers. No women there. The "gay couple" looked around slightly uneasily, moved to the other side of the space and turned their backs to us.

The quick stop at the Great Fire section of the museum also allowed us to startle a pair of unsuspecting gays, as our guide unformed us that after the Fire the French were blamed for not only the conflagration but also the rampant sodomy of the time at the origin of this new Sodom and Gomorrah.

By the time we got to the notorious Samuel Drybutter, the manish suffragettes and the colourful pride badges, we were pretty much on our own but there was still a thrill, for me and obviously also for others, to be in a public institutional space and unveiling our hidden histories.

This is both positive and emblematic of the work still needed for visibility and (although I hate the word) normalisation for LGBT lives. This is what History Month is about.


  1. Very amusing Nicolas, and very informative!

  2. Interesting stuff.

    Maybe I'd be able to take it in a little more if I wasn't so impressed with Ann Widdecombe calling you an intelligent man... she can't possibly be wrong!


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