Smithsonian Adds LGBT History To Museum Collection

Published: August 19, 2014

Smithsonian Adds LGBT History To Museum Collection, Hundreds of photographs, papers and historical objects documenting the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are being added to the Smithsonian Institution’s collection Tuesday, including items from the popular TV show “Will and Grace.”

Show creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick along with NBC are donating objects to the National Museum of American History. The collection includes original scripts, casting ideas, political memorabilia surrounding the show and the series finale. The network agreed to donate props, including a pill bottle and flask, a sign from “Grace Adler Interior Design” and Will Truman’s framed college diploma.

Kohan told The Associated Press the Smithsonian’s interest in the show featuring gay principal characters was a validation they never dreamed about when the sitcom began airing in 1998. “Will and Grace” ran through May 2006 depicting four friends both gay and straight, eventually ending with the main characters coupled off with children.

“These particular guests that were invited into people’s living rooms happened to be your gay friends,” Kohan said. “I don’t think people really had the opportunity to have that before, and it served to, I think, make people recognize that your close friends were gay.”

“The fact that it’s in the American history (museum), maybe we were a part of something that was bigger than we ever imagined,” Kohan said.

The donation is part of larger effort to document gay and lesbian history, an area that has not been well understood at the museum. Curators are collecting materials from LGBT political, sports and cultural history objects from Arizona to Maryland.

Some items being donated include the diplomatic passports of Ambassador David Huebner, the first openly gay U.S. ambassador confirmed by the Senate, and his husband; materials from a gay community center in Baltimore; and photography collections from Patsy Lynch and Silvia Ros documenting gay rights activism.

From sports history, the museum will receive a tennis racket from former professional player Renee Richards who won a landmark New York Supreme Court decision for transgender rights after she was denied entry to the U.S. Open in 1975. And the museum will receive the first transgender pride flag from an activist and U.S. Navy veteran.

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