Museum of Transology

The Museum of Transology, curated by my dear friend and all round genius E-J Scott, is currently on at the Fashion Space Gallery until 22nd April, and is one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever clapped eyes on.

I’m so over Trans narratives being sensationalised, othered and shown purely as before/after stories, MoT is a refreshing move away from that, where trans people tell their own stories through the labels they attach to the objects they have donated.

The objects range from the sublime to the ridiculous; the obvious, the powerful, the bodily and the heartbreaking, to the banal and downright boring- and herein lies the genius of the exhibition; trans lives can be just as bureaucratic, just as tedious, just as everyday as cis lives- and presented here in such a beautifully designed and curated space, with stories told by and with the fair hands of the people whose stories they are, comes a lesson to all curators.

Nothing about us without us is a bit of a tired saying now, but it holds true, regardless the content of the exhibition, it will always be engaging, warm, funny and moving, if its subjects are involved from the very beginning, and given complete agency in choosing how their stories are included, shared and interpreted.

The beauty of MoT is in its simplicity, in its heart, and in its boldness of telling a cacophonous series of narratives from a community that is wildly varied and anything but homogenous. At no point does MoT attempt to tell a singular trans narrative, and this is largely because who better to tell us that no such thing exists, but the trans community themselves.

I’m very proud of E-J and everyone involved, and think that this exhibition should, and must, mark a cultural shift for those of us in the museum sector who want our practice to be more thoughtful, more socially just and accessible, and to genuinely move conversations forward.

Here’s a sample of some of the coverage MoT has had:

BroadlyDesign History SocietyIt’s Nice ThatLe CoolI-DElleIndependentDisegnoTime OutCBCWonderlandNot Just a Label

I’m also really delighted to say I’ll be speaking on a panel about identifying, collecting and preserving trans and queer histories as part of the series of events supporting the exhibition.

It’s called Trancestory: Now you see it, now you don’t, and it takes place on 9th March at 7pm. For more info and to book, visit this page.

Speak Out! LGBTQ+ history exhibition & the 2016 LGBTQ ALMS conference

Hello! Apologies for such a lengthy gap between blog posts. I started working in a secondary school in Hackney in November, and I’m still writing up my thesis, which leaves little time for blogging, but I shall endeavour to do better!

Speak Out!

Speak Out London, LGBTQ+ history exhibition is now up and running at the London Metropolitan Archives. I am so pleased and proud to have been a part of such an excellent project. The exhibition is part of an LGBTQ+ oral history community project revealing stories of LGBTQ experience in London from 1395 to the present. It’s been a real labour of love for the LMA team, myself and a legion of volunteers. The next phase of the project is a website!

Here are a few pictures:

I’m particularly pleased with our wall of contested definitions, where visitors are invited (and encouraged) to graffiti it with their own additions, corrections and thoughts to the ever-evolving ways in which those in our wonderful community define, describe and identify.

LGBTQ+ ALMS conference 2016 ‘Without Borders’

Another project I’m involved with is the 2016 LGBTQ+ Archives, Libraries, Museums and Special Collections (ALMS) conference, hosted by Bishopsgate, University of Westminster and LMA.

I would never have thought, when me and Jan Pimblett (from the LMA) were drinking jagermeister in the oldest lesbian bar in Amsterdam during the 2012 ALMS conference that we would be working together on its follow up in London. The programme is phenomenal, and can be found here. And over the next few weeks in the build up, the website will be continuing to grow with tasters, teasers and tidbits! Keep up to date here. Hope to see many of you there! You can buy tickets here.

call for volunteers for LGBTQ exhibition

Following this year’s Master-Mistress exhibition, the staff at Sutton House have invited me to curate a follow up exhibition in February 2015.

In Master-Mistress, four brilliant volunteers contributed their voices by reading from Shakespeare’s Fair Youth sonnets. For Master-Mistress Take 2, we’re going to have all 126 of them read and recorded, and exhibited at Sutton House. This might sound very ambitious, but this is where you can help!

I’m looking for 126 people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer or intersex (or any combination of) who would like to take part in this.

What I will need from you:

  • a self recorded reading of a sonnet (I will assign the sonnets to make sure we have no duplicates), if you have a smart phone you will be able to do it on that, if you are unable to, or don’t have a phone that can record sound, then I can help you record it. The sonnets all take approximately 1 minute to read.
  • a 10 second ‘moving selfie’, a video (again, just use your phone, and again if you don’t have the technology, we can help you out) that serves as a portrait of you, of your face or your full body, or if you’re not comfortable showing yourself, you can send a clip of something personal that captures an element of you, an object, an item of clothing, a place, or whatever you want (get in touch if you’re short of ideas and I can help).
  • Your permission to use both the sound recording, and your videos in an exhibition, promotional material for the exhibition and online.

The sounds and clips will help to create an immersive audio-visual experience at Sutton House in LGBT History Month in 2015. Once the exhibition is over, there will be an online space to bring all of the material together, so that together we create a legacy that lasts beyond LGBT History Month.

Please email If you want to contribute- get in touch and I can assign you with a sonnet to read, or if you want any more information, or have any questions, get in touch too.

We’re aiming to have collected all 126 sonnets by November, so get in touch as soon as you can!

Also, please share this post widely with your networks, it’s a really exciting opportunity to be involved in a ground breaking community sourced project and exhibition in a National Trust property!

Here is an example of one of the readings from last year:

Sonnet 93 from Sean Curran on Vimeo.

You can hear the other three here.

I visited the house today, and was shown around the new breakers yard, which is gorgeous, do go and visit, here are a few pictures from it:

Manchester, so much to answer for…

I’ve just returned from a long weekend in Manchester, which to my surprise I’m finally learning to love, I think it has been bitterness at the assumption that Manchester is the only decent city up North that has fueled this dislike, but I’m beginning to see its charm.

I visited, at the recommendation of my supervisor (and a friend), the People’s History Museum, which was an attempt of mine to find a social history museum that inspired me a bit. This one certainly did. Its origins, and the focus on the history of working people, revolution and democracy means that it’s an emphatically left-wing museum. It is described as having no political affiliation, though the permanent exhibition essentially feels like it’s about victories for the left, and barriers put in place by the right. It seems to me that any attempt at documenting the history of democracy, equality and protesting has to be slanting left-wise, because that’s where the change happened. The main exhibition is divided across two floors, with the first part covering the Peterloo massacres in 1819 up until WWI and then from after the war up to present day.

One thing that particularly struck me, aside from the consistent feminist narrative running throughout, was a piece of text on the inside of a door that opened to reveal a pike head, it said: ‘Family legend vs historical opinion- is this a Peterloo pike head?’ it then goes on ‘The accepted history of Peterloo is that the crowd were unarmed. However some historians have suggested that some members of the crowd were armed. The family who donated this pike head had always believed their ancestor John Chadwick collected it from the field of Peterloo. Museums are often given objects with a family history that differs from that of historians. We have to judge which history to tell. Do you think this is a Peterloo pike head? Should we believe that everyone who attended the meeting wanted it to be peaceful.’ It is very unusual to find museums that freely admit that they don’t have all of the answers, and instead of making a decision here as to whether or not to show an artefact that may not be what it claims to be, they have framed it within a question, not only about the role of the museum, but about the difficulties of piecing together histories, and allowed the visitor agency in making their own mind. A very bold (and simple) move, for a very bold museum.

The exhibition in the temporary space was The Art of Protest, which consisted of protest artworks (of varying quality) that were submitted to I particularly liked the use of the space, which seemed very community-curated and democratic, and the exhibition was complemented by a programme of events. Situated in the Engine Hall, the Art of Protest was an example of a community driven short term exhibition, and aside from being a great feature for any museum, also upheld the ethos that formed the original museum collections.

I also popped to the Manchester Art Gallery to see the Raqib Shaw exhibition, and the various interventions he had performed around the museum. I was also delighted to encounter a small exhibition called ‘Dreams without frontiers’ (which you can read about here), in which I had a near-spiritual experience sitting in a darkened room with ‘Asleep’ by the Smiths playing and no-one but a woman that looked like Lol from This Is England for company. To accompany the exhibition, a small booklet of essays responding to the works had been commissioned, a piece of art in itself, they had accepted submissions from anyone, and while the quality of the writing varies, it’s another example of a democratic use (and extension) of an exhibition.