The inaugural exhibition of Australia’s first gay and lesbian museum has officially opened.
The Sydney Mardi Gras Museum Debut Exhibition, which launched on Oxford St on Tuesday, focuses on the history of the parade from its beginnings in the 1970s to the present day.
Drawn largely from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives, the exhibition features memorabilia and archival evidence such as photographs, costumes, posters and headlines from past festivals.
The exhibition was launched by a host of prominent figures including Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich, and former ABC broadcaster and gay rights campaigner Julie McCrossin.
Moore said that the exhibition highlighted the vital role Mardi Gras played in the community, both for those who were part of it and people who are new to the culture.
“There are a lot of young gay people who don’t know the history – they never went through the AIDS epidemic or the candlelight vigils, and it’s important that they realise what it took to get to where we are,” Moore said.
While the exhibition will run throughout Mardi Gras until March 3, a permanent site for the museum has yet to be agreed upon. Mardi Gras’ original plan to use a city-owned building in Taylor Square has met with opposition from the council, which intends to use the proposed space as a bicycle hub.
Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said he was thrilled at the launch’s success, but indicated that Mardi Gras would continue the push for a permanent museum in Taylor Square.
“We had to leave quite a bit out of the exhibition – everyone in the community has a treasure trove of stories, and a permanent museum would let us tell those stories. We’re looking forward to working with the council to set up a dedicated space,” Rolik said.
McCrossin, who was involved in the original gay rights protests of the 1970s, compared the prospect of a permanent gay rights museum to the Australian War Memorial and the Sydney Jewish Museum.
“Museums enrich people’s relationships with their communities. Berlin and San Francisco have museums, it’s time we had one of our own,” McCrossin said.