I created Looking for Queer Possibility in the Museum for Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2022. We debuted the publication at Queer Possibility at the Museum, an after-hours event I produced at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. In addition to serving as a launch for the booklet, the event featured three performances by local queer artists who used the zine to find queer inspiration in the museum.
This zine invites queer visitors to let their feelings guide them to queer connections with museum objects. I end the zine explaining that the job of interpreting queerness in the museum cannot fall to visitors, that the techniques I offer are only a stopgap as we wait for museum professionals to implement queer-positive interpretation.
Since having made a pdf of the booklet available for download on my website, I have been pleased to see so much interest in it. However, I was surprised to find out that several museums have started using it in their galleries. I created this as a guide for visitors, people who do not have the power to change the museum. As a museum worker who is dedicated to updating best practice for interpreting queer themes, I would hate to see this resource used as a replacement for queer interpretation.
I have added a note to the zine download to add this context for museum workers:
Who is this guide for?
For the queer museum visitor
This guide is for you. It’s an invitation to bring your queer expertise to the museum and find queerness where it has gone unacknowledged. It’s also a knowing glance in your direction: this queer museum worker sees you and is working to make museums queerer.
For museum workers
You can use this guide too. Queer museum workers, I hope this helps you feel more confident in trusting your queer expertise in your work. Use this guide to help you uncover queer stories to interpret for your visitors.
Remember: holding a position at a museum means you have access to power. You may be tempted to go rogue, but I challenge you to use your access to advocate for systemic change at your institution.
This guide is not a replacement for programs and exhibits that interpret queer themes. If you make copies of this booklet for visitors, contextualize it with programming or use it to engage visitors in planning interpretation of queer stories. This guide is not a solution, but it can be part of your process.
You can use my Advocating for Social Justice Work in Museums resource to help you make the case to decision-makers at your museum.
Let me know how it's going and please share photos from your exhibits and programs. Remember I am available for consulting if you and your team could use some support in planning for and implementing these systemic changes.
Download your copy of the zine here.