Minnesota History Center exhibit shines light on LGBT history


The Minnesota Historical Society library has put together a display in its lobby documenting the LGBT community’s struggle toward full equality in Minnesota.

From the Closet to the Altar: A Modern History of LGBTQ Communities in Minnesota showcases the struggle to achieve marriage equality in Minnesota, a struggle spanning several generations. From the attempts by Jack Baker and Michael McConnell in the early 1970s to obtain a marriage license to efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to have government and corporate recognition of domestic partnerships and on to the public battles at the ballot box in the 2000s, the Minnesota History Center has pulled much of its long stored items and put them on display to tell that history.

“The idea for the From the Closet to the Altar exhibit was in part prompted by a recent acquisition of organizational records from Project 515,” Shelby Edwards, Assistant Manuscript Curator notes. “Project 515 has the unique standing as being probably one of the only organizations in Minnesota pleased to be closing their doors in 2014.”

In fact, the exhibit debuted at Project 515’s celebration of a mission accomplished in mid-May. It will run until July 7 (and through Pride season).

Among the items on display are marriage certificates issued to same-sex couples by churches in the 1970s, and campaign literature from a number of LGBT rights battles some of which were won, and some lost. There’s even an outfit and fundraising calendar from a well-known drag queen in the early 1990s, and hate emails received by marriage equality groups in 2012 during the anti-gay amendment battle.

Such items have prompted an advisory to visitors. “While some of the content in this exhibit may be disturbing to modern viewers, the Society is proud to showcase materials from our collections reflecting the varied and sometimes contentious history of LGBTQ communities and interested parties in Minnesota,” a sign outside the exhibit explains.

The display runs through July 7 and is open during library hours: Tuesday from 9am – 8pm, Wed-Sat from 9am – 4pm, closed Sunday and Monday.