An LGBTQ+ Trail of the University of Oxford's Collections
One of the simplest things museums do – so simple it’s easy to overlook – is to connect us to the worlds that our ancestors saw, interacted with, shared, dreamed of, planned, ran away from and interpreted. At the simplest level to see ourselves reflected back through the generations is a very rewarding, exciting and fulfilling experience. To see that our people looked at, considered, explored, generated and played with ideas of sexuality with as much freedom, imagination and insight as ours comes as a relief, a confirmation and an enchantment.
LGBTQ+ histories are becoming increasingly visible in museums, and this inspiring new trail shows how Oxford’s collections reflect the diversity of human cultures and of the natural world. ‘Out in Oxford’ reassuringly reminds us that LGBTQ+ people have always been an integral part of human life and that our varied identities are not limited to the usual set of media stereotypes.
Visibility is important and it is especially welcome in a university city where many young people come out. On a personal level, I’m delighted to see this trail happen in a place that always feels romantic to me, since it’s where I first met my husband. The University is wonderfully committed to equality and diversity, and he has been made to feel very much at home in my own college, Queen’s. But we still think twice before holding hands elsewhere in the University and the legacy of hetero-normative history can still seem oppressively persistent. The time of full equality is not quite with us yet, but a trail like this brings it closer, by showing to everyone that we are utterly normal parts of the world: it provides a vision of what Oxford can and should be as a diverse, inclusive home for all its inhabitants.
Richard Bruce Parkinson