Skip to comments.Museum on a mission to save local gay history (Houston -TX)
Posted on 08/24/2004 10:24:44 AM PDT by Jalapeno
Collection shows long fight to gain rights in Houston
By ALLAN TURNER
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON'S GLBT MUSEUM
Long after the odor faded, the memory lingers.
In a dimly lit, nighttime alley, a lone man rummaged through a giant trash bin, heaving bag after garbage bag to the pavement. He could have been a homeless man digging for a meal. But this intrepid anonymous raider of the greasy Dumpster was a guerrilla of history. His mission: to save from an ignoble burial in a city landfill the documents of a history scorned.
Within days, the garbage bags filled with photographic prints and negatives and undeveloped film were in the hands of volunteers for the fledgling Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History. The group's quest to salvage the files of the defunct pioneer gay magazine TWT is now the stuff of Montrose legend. The booty, sorted and catalogued, is part of thousands of documents recording the decades-long struggle for gay rights in Houston.
The exhibits today are housed in a tiny one-bedroom apartment a short distance from the city's prestigious Menil Collection. It's one of the city's largest such collections, and it marks its fifth anniversary this fall.
"We've collected a world of stuff since we started," said museum Chairman Bruce Reeves. "The reality: There's a world more to be collected.
"The No. 1 reason so much history of the gay and lesbian community is lost is that, as people die because of AIDS a lot of people die and die young families that don't necessarily understand their children or approve come in and throw stuff away. Personal diaries, letters that history gets lost. We formed to let people know that there is a place for that stuff to be preserved."
Museum secretary Judy Reeves said she is concerned that some gays lack an appreciation for their history.
"The entire world seems to agree that the Stonewall 'riots' were the beginning of the gay movement," Judy Reeves said of the 1969 New York City bar disturbances that galvanized gay America. "When we run into people my age, 54, who don't know what Stonewall was or who haven't heard of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor who in 1977 became the first gay elected to major office, we've got a problem.
"I think that's what drove me. ... We should have started working on this 10 years ago."
The first Gulf Coast Archive and Museum was housed in a front room of Bruce and Judy Reeves' warehouse home. The couple since have divorced, but each remains active with the organization.
The museum holds about 200 boxes of documents; art, clothing and memorabilia; complete runs of the Houston Voice, Texas Triangle and other publications; and about 2,000 hours of recorded interviews and videotaped community events.
At any given time, said Judy Reeves, only about 10 percent of the museum's collection is on display. In a typical week, the museum might host anywhere from two visitors to group tours with 50 or more members.
Exhibits include an oversize acrylic painting of a scantily clad 1960s-era cowboy, which graced the walls of a series of Houston leather clubs, sequined costumes of the gay Mardi Gras group Krewe of Olympus, and more prosaic tributes to people who have supported the gay community.
Among the latter is a display honoring the late Marvin Davis, a city of Houston Health Department case worker who, in the drag-queen persona of "Lady Victoria Lust," sponsored benefits to provide help to critically ill AIDS patients. Davis' first Persons With AIDS Christmas Show in 1987 raised $400 enough for Christmas cards and $5 gifts for 80 patients.
Holding on to the past
Included in the exhibit are commendations for Davis, who died in 1996, from former Gov. Ann Richards and former Mayors Kathy Whitmire and Bob Lanier.
The museum also maintains a collection of gay erotica, which is open to adult patrons upon request.
Those associated with the museum work with a sense of urgency.
"Judy and the museum literally have saved some important things at the last hour," said museum supporter Brandon Wolf. "One friend Judy and I had died. He had 20 to 30 photo albums of life in Montrose. His friends didn't know what to do with them, so they just tossed them out. That's our biggest concern. Once you destroy history, it's gone."
Another longtime supporter, Don Gill, whose fund-raising activities have benefited the organization, recalled a troubling example of community forgetfulness. At a meeting several years after Davis' death, Gill asked the audience how many were familiar with Lady Victoria Lust.
"Very few raised their hands," Gill said.
Judy Reeves, who has retired from her life's work as a bank and hospital cashier, said interest in creating a museum emerged in mid-1999 through an e-mail listserv dealing with gay issues.
Discussions about combining the museum with a massive library maintained by the largely gay and lesbian Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church foundered on questions of accessibility, content and the impact that housing such an institution in a church might have on patronage.
Hindered by limited funds
Museum officials admit their institution leads a nearly hand-to-mouth existence, partly because as in the larger community many nonprofit gay groups compete for a finite pool of funds.
"I think we're pretty much like all our organizations," said Bruce Reeves. "I hate to say we're struggling, but sometimes that's the only word that fits."
The museum's sympathetic landlord gives the group a break on rent. And although admission is free, visitors generally leave generous contributions in donation jars.
Still, the greatest needs remain unmet: larger quarters to permit better display of museum holdings and the ability to keep the museum open full time.
"I know we miss some visitors just by requiring people make an appointment," Judy Reeves said. "Sometimes people would just stop by on a whim. If they call me the phone rings at my house I try to accommodate them. I'm happy to come open the museum if I'm able. But I tell them it will take me 30 minutes to get there.
"Sometimes they just can't wait."
The Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Location: 1609 W. Main, Apt. 4 Hours: By appointment only Admission: Free Contact: 713-692-8735 or email@example.com More information: www.gcam.org
Well Isn't That Special...
Hmmm...contents salvaged from a dumpster, displayed in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, yet, still of of the city's largest such collections!
And this merits a newspaper article?
OF COURSE there is no such thing as media bias...
I got this far before I busted up laughing.
I wonder if the museam contains a wax figure of the first man with AIDS?
Just when you think the comical has hit rock bottom, one of them produces a shovell and digs.
Thanks for the ping, Tony - and for the time being, ItsOurTimeNow is the current Homosexual Agenda Pinglist Master. When my computer gets fixed, then I'll have more input.
I believe it's a life-size blow up replica....
- Homosexual Agenda PING -
More sick attempts to legitimize and lend some sort of creedence and pride to a lifestyle that deserves neither.
Jerusalem is still standing...Sodom isn't. Ever wonder why? Think they'll ever get the hint?
(If you want on or off this ping list, please Freepmail me.)
*For personal and non-commercial use only*
I think the notion that a museum should house the trivia and papers collected by every pack rat throughout his life is great, and my wife will like it even more, once I'm gone, and she has to figure out what to do with my stuff. What's that, you say? Only the trivia and papers of homosexuals count as salvageable?!
There is a chance those photos of y'all in Allegra's dresses may be in the museum. You should have burned them instead of just throwing them in the dumpster.
It's my new tag-line~!
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