The 10 best LGBTQ museums in the world

The 10 best LGBTQ museums in the world

We’re no stranger to the Met or a MOMA or two, but when looking for a place solely dedicated to representing LGBTQ art and history, it’s easy to come up short, particularly if you’re travelling in a new city. So, from Stonewall archives to modern gay art exhibitions, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 LGBTQ museums in the world offering up gay culture and insight into all things queer, wherever you are in the world.

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1. Leslie+Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, USA

Named after their New Yorker founders Fritz Lohman and Charles Leslie, the Leslie+Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the result of decades of struggles and opposition, starting with a small 1969 exhibition that took place in their Soho loft. Now, a half-century later, the museum is one of the top LGBTQ museums in the world, holding over 30,000 works by queer artists spanning three centuries. Having upsized in the year of 2017 to Wooster Street in lower Manhattan, the museum now has room to host various exhibits, a bookstore, a speaker series and other private and public events.

Leslie-Lohman Museum, NY

Leslie-Lohman Museum | Photo: Kristine Eudey

2. Schwules Museum, Berlin, Germany

Widely regarded as the first ‘gay museum’ is the Schwules Museum in Berlin which traces its origins back to 1984 with a single exhibit inside the Berlin Museum. The resulting success and popularity inspired a group of friends to launch a dedicated museum covering the full spectrum of LGBTQ life. Located in the Tiergarten district since 2013 and considered among Germany’s most prized cultural institutions, here visitors will find an array of artworks and artefacts across four exhibition rooms, alongside a workshop, café and other event spaces.

3. Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, USA

Leaving a boldly printed mark on both the art world and queer culture, in general, is the infamous pop artist Andy Warhol. Pittsburgh in the US is one of the fortunate cities to host a huge collection of his original works that includes 900 paintings, 2,000 works on paper, 1,000 unique prints, 77 sculptures, 4,000 photographs and over 4,350 Warhol films and videotapes. The largest museum dedicated to a single artist, the Andy Warhol Museum is a must for any queer art lover or pop art fan.

Gay London

Photo: Massimo Rinaldi

4. ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, Los Angeles, USA

Aimed at promoting public awareness of LGBTQ issues through preservation is the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles. Owing much to the University of Southern California Libraries in terms of space and resources, ONE has been enshrined on West Adams Boulevard since 2010, providing visitors and academics access to periodicals, books, films, photography, audio recordings and personal papers, all relating to the history of gay and lesbian issues in the United States. As a happy bonus, the archive’s West Hollywood satellite space hosts a range of ongoing art and history exhibits unseen anywhere else.

Venice Beach, LA

Venice Beach | Photo: Adam Berkecz

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5. GLBT Historical Society & Museum, San Francisco, USA

Playfully referred to as the ‘gay Smithsonian’ is the GLBT Historical Society & Museum in San Francisco, which holds an extensive collection of historic artefacts, all relating to the history of LGBT people in the US, with a deeper focus on San Francisco and Northern California. Located on 18th street in the Castro neighbourhood – San Francisco’s gay mecca – GLBT is the first LGBT museum of its kind dedicated solely to the cause, allowing visitors to gain insights into local legend and political figure Harvey Milk as well as to explore various temporary and permanent exhibits spanning everything from archival materials to graphic arts.

Palace Of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Palace Of Fine Arts | Photo: Rich Hay

Pier 7, San Francisco

Pier 7 | Photo: Jaredd Craig

6. Stonewall National Museum & Archives, Fort Lauderdale, USA

While Fort Lauderdale might not be the first city that springs to mind when looking to commemorate the Stonewall uprising, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Fort Lauderdale, in fact, serves a very strong local LGBTQ community, alongside other municipal offerings like the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association and the Pride Center of Florida. Beginning life as a library in 1984, the Stonewall museum has since grown steadily, amassing over 30,000 artworks, historical materials, records and ephemera all related to the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City. Now located in Wilton Manors, Florida’s top gay museum hosts revolving exhibits, film screenings, readings and fundraisers throughout the year.

7. National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, Chicago, USA

This next LGBTQ museum is one for the queer sports fanatics among you. The National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame located in Chicago is the only museum of its type in the US. Aptly located in Boystown in the LGBT community space known as Center on Halsted since 2013, this sporting LGBT museum has a mission to honour those who have “enhanced sports and athletics for the LGBTQ community” and to preserve their memory. Launching their ‘hall of fame’ shortly after basketballer Jason Collins became the first out NBA player in its history, the museum has since added a number of stars and organisations to its line-up, including Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and the Chicago Cubs for being the first professional franchise to host an LGBTQ awareness day back in 2001.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago | Photo: Gina Samarotto

8. The ArQuives, Toronto, Canada

Nationally supported since 1973 as part of Canada’s progressive politics and gay-friendly approach, the country’s national LGBTQ archives are well-run and important cultural institutions. In Toronto, discover The ArQuives (Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives), which hosts one of the largest queer historical collections in the world. With a focus on memorabilia, publications, artworks, recordings and other Canada-centric materials, The ArQuives stands out for its collection of physical artefacts including LGBTQ flags, posters and ephemera all capturing the vibrancy of the political movement. As well as a unique collection, The ArQuives also presents walking tours, seasonal exhibits, presentations and showcase events, with many of its materials available digitally.

Toronto Skyline

Toronto skyline | Photo: Scott Webb

9. Australia Lesbian & Gay Archives, Melbourne, Australia

Run by a volunteer-based community for over 40 years is the Australia Lesbian & Gay Archives in Melbourne. Packed with over 150,000 LGBTQ artefacts, stretching back to the nation’s first settlers, this Oz-based institution also hosts academic conferences, organised tours and history walks. As well as hosting exhibits at the main site of the archive and library, the community also puts on various exhibits in cooperation with partner galleries across Australia, naturally joining in on big calendar events such as Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and Midsumma Festival.

Amsterdam Pride

Amsterdam Pride

10. IHLIA LGBT Heritage, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Finally we’ve got a vast resource of obscure LGBTQ materials over in Amsterdam, Europe’s most liberal capital. Officially named the International Homo/Lesbian Information Archive, but going by IHLIA LGBT Heritage for short, this collection has been growing rapidly in the city’s Public Library since 1999. Now, the archives maintain the largest collection of LGBTQ items in the whole of Europe. Of its 113,000-strong collection, visitors can get their hands on unique and rare copies of books and other printed materials relating to LGBTQ culture in myriad ways.

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