Display | Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on June 30, 2017

Now on view at The British Museum:

Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ Histories
The British Museum, London, 11 May — 15 October 2017
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 25 September — 2 December 2018

This display provides glimpses into LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) experience across time and around the world through the British Museum’s collection. The objects offer insights into to what the novelist E. M. Forster described as “a great unrecorded history.” Ranging chronologically from ancient history to the present day the objects often prompt questions, challenging the contemporary viewer to question the assumptions that they bring to objects from other cultures and the more distant past. The display draws on material from across the breadth of the Museum’s collection including coins, medals, and prints. As well as highlighting famous figures such as the poetess Sappho, and the emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous, the display looks beyond Europe’s classical past to explore less familiar themes and stories.

This exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in July 1967. This legislation partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales and marks an important milestone in the campaign for equality.

The Ladies of Llangollen Chocolate Cups and Saucers, porcelain from Bristol China Manufactory, 1779–81, and Derby Porcelain Factory (replacements), 1790 (London: The British Museum, 1887,0307,VIII.34).

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The exhibition includes Chocolate Cups and Saucers that belonged to the Ladies of Llangollen:

Sarah Ponsonby (1755–1831) and Eleanor Butler (1739–1829), known popularly as the Ladies of Llangollen, ran away in 1780 to set up home together, leaving their old aristocratic lives in Ireland behind them. They lived happily for 50 years in North Wales, challenging the conventions of their era and acquiring a celebrity-like status. These chocolate-cups are decorated with a view of their house on one side and their coats of arms on the other. The centre of each saucer is decorated with their entwined monograms. During the 1700s the concept of romantic friendships between women became common. Friends often wrote to one another using passionate language that to modern readers would imply a sexual relationship, but largely reflected social convention.

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Note (added 4 September 2018) — The posting was updated to include the Ashmolean as a venue, where the exhibition is entitled No Offence: Exploring LGBTQ+ Histories.





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