As Part of Its Grand Expansion Plan, the New-York Historical Society Will Soon House the City’s First LGBTQ+ History Museum

The expansion is paid for in part by a $35 million grant from New York's cultural affairs office.

Rendering of the New-York Historical Society’s expansion project, as seen from West 76thStreet. Imagecredit: Alden Studios for Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

New York is getting its first museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history and culture, and it will be housed in the city’s oldest museum, the New-York Historical Society, as part of a major expansion plan.

The expansion, paid for in part by a $35 million grant from New York’s cultural affairs office, will add more than 70,000 square feet of additional space for the Historical Society and the newly created American LGBTQ+ Museum, which will take up the entire fourth floor of a planned five-story addition.

The Historical Society’s classrooms will also get significantly more space to house an education center for the Academy for American Democracy education initiative, which offers resources to 30,000 public school students throughout the city.

New galleries will also serve graduate students in the New-York Historical Society’s Master of Arts in Museum Studies program, which aims to diversify the city’s cultural workforce.

The board chair of the forthcoming American LGBTQ+ Museum, Richard Burns, told the New York Times that the project has been in the works since 2017, when a group of local activists came up with the idea.

“Suddenly we’ve reached this moment, a tipping point where more and more people are saying, ‘We better record this history, integrate it and celebrate it before we lose it,’” Burns said.

In 2018 the nascent board of directors began raising money and settled on a museum charter in 2019.

The institution, which aims to tell the “untold stories of regular lived lives, activists’ lives, lives lost in queer New York and queer America,” will complement the downtown Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, the only dedicated LGBTQ+ art museum in New York.

In an email to Artnet News, the Leslie-Lohman Museum said “since 1969, just weeks before the Stonewall uprising, Leslie-Lohman has been exhibiting and preserving LGBTQ+ art and championing the visions of queer artists, while building a unique collection of over 30,000 artworks. It’s exciting to welcome new initiatives and institutions centering queer histories and cultures.”

The expansion will be helmed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and move the museums into a 10,000-square-foot lot that Historical Society trustees purchased in 1937. The expansion is planned as a “phased project,” with the first beginning in summer 2022. Museum officials hope to have the work done by 2024.

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