“American LGBTQ+ Museum” Planned For Manhattan

The American LGBTQ+ Museum will have a permanent home in the expansion of the New-York Historical Society’s headquarters on Central Park West, with a $35 million infusion in capital funds from the city.

The capital funds represents a quarter of the historical society’s $140 million expansion to add more than 60,000 square feet onto the lot directly behind its headquarters, which was acquired in 1937 by the society’s trustees in anticipation of their eventual growth. Among the plans for more classrooms, galleries and exhibit space is a permanent home for the American LGBTQ+ Museum, which has been in the works since 2017.

“Several years ago, as we really faced a huge shortage, a huge deficit of space in our main building, and also began to think through the new stories that we would like to tell in addition to those we’ve been telling in our headquarters, we were introduced to the board of the American LGBTQ+ museum,” said Louise Mirrer, president and chief executive officer, in a phone interview Saturday. Through discussions, Mirrer said, the historical society decided to “use the new building as a place both to fulfill our needs and ambitions and accommodate them.”

“We’re delighted to partner with New York’s foremost museum of history to build a new museum dedicated to an exploration and celebration of the richness and diversity of LGBTQ+ history and culture in America,” Richard Burns, the chair of the board of directors for the American LGBTQ+ Museum, said in a statement. “The respect and rigor with which New-York Historical has approached this process, including their consultation with local communities, mirrors our own commitment to building a thoughtful, welcoming, queer, and inclusive experience for our visitors and partners.”

The New York City Council and the city Department of Cultural Affairs allocated $35 million for the expansion, which will be designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The expansion will also include more classrooms for the society’s Academy for American Democracy program, an educational program for sixth-graders, and a new storage facility for the historical society’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library.

The new museum will occupy the entire fourth floor, two galleries, have access to the roof garden, and areas for offices and storage. Mirrer said she believes this will be the first LGBTQ+ museum with a historical focus in the country.

The historical society has mounted exhibits about the legacy of the Stonewall riots and is currently exhibiting Safe/Haven about the roots of the LGBTQ+ community in Cherry Grove on Fire Island.

The new collaboration between the venerable historical society and the nascent LGBTQ+ museum “really makes it clear that the history of the LGBTQ+ community is part of American history,” Mirrer said. “It’s not a sideshow to American history. It is part of the mainstream of American history.”