Queer art has a long history. From a leather version of Michelangelo’s David to giant rainbow flags to outrageous drag outfits, queer people have been making art — and queering existing artworks — since time immemorial. The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco preserves thousands of pieces that document a vast range of queer arts, from sculpture and painting to poetry, and dance.
Many of these belong to our Art & Artifacts collection, which is something of a cabinet of curiosities, or, as we call them, “queeriosities.” With over 1,000 items, it is one of the world’s largest collections of two and three-dimensional objects that illustrate historical LGBTQIA+ material culture. Our archives hold these artworks along with documents and artifacts that tell the stories of countless LGBTQIA+ lives and communities.
Our archives hold diaries by gay and trans historian Lou Sullivan; outfits from icons like José Sarria, Sylvester, and Gilbert Baker; a rich trove of writing and correspondence from Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin; the suit Harvey Milk was wearing the night of his murder; the only known remnant of the original rainbow flags; and so much more. We keep these objects safe and accessible so current and future generations can learn their history, and find their own place in it.