LGBTQ+ history is a part of American history that the museum has been documenting since its founding, both knowingly and unknowingly.
Our collections span centuries and include objects related to protest and politics, medicine and psychology, love and marriage, sports and entertainment, and more. Sometimes, curators and archivists collected objects for a specific reason that later turned out to have LGBTQ+ connections. For example, the numismatics collection has coins that were collected decades ago with the likenesses of emperors and royalty, such as Queen Christina of Sweden, who expressed same-sex attraction. Identities, terms, and definitions related to sexual orientation and gender identity have been in flux as long as there have been humans. The museum is continually adding to and mining our existing resources in order to better understand evolving and overlapping identities such as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, transsexual, transvestite, mahu, homosexual, fluid, invert, urning, third sex, two sex, gender-bender, sapphist, hijra, friend of Dorothy, drag queen/king, and many other experiences.
The resources gathered on this page offer a path into the museum’s efforts in finding that past and making sense of it.
- See an overview of LGBTQ+ archival collections in the museum’s Archives Center, or search the finding aid to the LGBT Collection.
- Sylvia Rivera: Pushing Boundaries. This episode of our Latinas Talk Latinas series features Sylvia Rivera, a transgender woman who was a fierce defender of LGBTQ+ rights.
- Beyond Stonewall. This Smithsonian Channel production revisits the historic moment that began a movement and explores objects from the Smithsonian that tell stories of the gay experience in America.
- History Time: LGBTQ+ Pride. This entry from our video series for elementary-age kids uses a rainbow rubber bracelet to explore the meaning of LGBTQ+ pride.
- National Museum of American History Marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising With “Illegal To Be You” Display (June 17, 2019)
- Smithsonian Receives Matthew Shepard Collection (October 25, 2018)
- LGBTQ Publisher, Journalist and Pioneer Mark Segal Donates Collection to National Museum of American History (May 17, 2018)
- National Museum of American History Receives Archival Materials Related to the History of The Academy of Washington, D.C. (March 13, 2018)
- National Museum of American History Acquires Archival Collection Related to LGBT Conversion Therapy (October 16, 2017)
- National Museum of American History Collects History Related to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History (August 19, 2014)