London Just Got a New LGBTQ Museum — Here's a Look Inside 'Queer Britain'

·3 min read
Queer Britain Museum
Queer Britain Museum

John Sturrock/Kings Cross

There aren't many museums dedicated to the achievements and struggles of the LGBTQ community. New York City is welcoming The American LGBTQ Museum in 2024. The stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg has exhibitions dedicated to queer rights. Berlin has the famed Schwules Museum, which opened in 1985. And Qtopia Sydney has made recent progress on a forthcoming LGBTQI museum in Australia. Now, with the May 2022 opening of London's Queer Britain museum, focused on celebrating LGBTQ history, queer travelers have a dynamic new space to reflect on their journey.

Queer Britain co-founder Ian Mehrtens said that the idea for the museum first came to Joseph Galliano (the museum's other co-founder).

"At one of our regular coffee chats, Joseph said he'd had an idea that he wanted to share with me that he had been developing since his time working with Gay Times: an LGBTQ museum, a space where people could go to celebrate success, to learn about queer history, and to ensure that people's life stories are not lost forever," Mehrtens said. "It was approaching the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 — and it seemed like a moment in history to ensure that everyone knew what life had been like when it was illegal to be gay."

The museum is located at 2 Granary Square in London and spread across two floors with four gallery spaces, five exhibition areas, and a retail shop. The redeveloped Kings Cross and Granary Square area is now a trendy destination with cafés, bars, restaurants, and parks, and it's easy to get to via London's metro system. Entry to Queer Britain is free (although donations are welcomed) and the museum is fully accessible via lifts and ramps.

Queer Britain Museum
Queer Britain Museum

John Sturrock/Kings Cross

According to Mehrtens, the historic location of the museum was one of the world's first multi-modal interchanges — a canal basin for the transfer of goods between the canal, the famous Kings Cross and St. Pancras railway stations, and connecting roads. Today, the Square and adjacent public realm is owned and managed by a developer who organizes a varied program of events including concerts, cinema screenings, and twice-weekly 'KERB' street food stalls.

Queer Britain Museum
Queer Britain Museum

John Sturrock/Kings Cross

The museum's opening exhibit, "Welcome to Queer Britain," is slated for an eight-week run and is intended to function as an introduction to the Queer Britain mission. The exhibit contains many pieces from the museum's burgeoning photographic collection, as well as artwork from the various exhibitions that were developed prior to moving into the building. For example, visitors can see a previous collaborative exhibition between Queer Britain, Getty Images, and M&C Saatchi — as well as the "Chosen Family" exhibition, a 2019 joint project between the museum and Levi's.

Fresh on the heels of this show, the museum will debut another exhibit, "We Are Queer Britain," in July 2022. Mehrtens explained that this experience will feature 50 different voices to celebrate 50 years of Gay Pride in London. It will run until spring 2023.

Mehrtens said that the reaction from visitors has been overwhelming, both in person and on social media.

Queer Britain Museum
Queer Britain Museum

John Sturrock/Kings Cross

"Some people have burst into tears just having a physical space to celebrate being queer and to be themselves in," he said. "Many people just sit and take in the enormity of what has been achieved and, judging by the number of volunteers, are keen to ensure that it is successful."

Visitors planning a trip to Queer Britain may also wish to visit VisitBritain's website, which includes a recently updated LGBTQ guide with information on this year's various Pride events.