Preserving History

Posted: June 8th, 2018 | Featured, Out of the Archives, Top Story | 1 Comment

By Archives Staff | Out of the Archives

Largest San Diego LGBTQ history exhibit opening in time for Pride

The largest exhibit of LGBTQ history ever held in San Diego will open July 8 at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. The information and materials for the exhibit were provided by Lambda Archives.

“LGBTQ+ San Diego: Stories of Struggles and Triumphs” is the result of a partnership between the SDHC and Lambda Archives and was curated by noted historian Lillian Faderman, author of 16 books, including a biography of Harvey Milk published May 22 by Yale University Press. Professor Faderman spent hundreds of hours combing through the collections to find the gems to display. Archives staff and volunteers aided her, searching through records, boxes and digital files to present as complete a portrait as possible.

Some of the collection provided for the LGBTQ history exhibit provided by Lambda Archives at the San Diego History Museum opening July 7, curated by by noted historian Lillian Faderman. (Photo courtesy Lambda Archives)

A Community Advisory Committee was headed by former state Senator Christine Kehoe and community leader and San Diego businessman Robert Gleason, and additional community support has been pledged by San Diego Pride, The Imperial Court de San Diego and The Center.

Educational and associated programs as part of the exhibition are being developed by a community-sourced Education and Advocacy Working Group, made up of LGTBQ+ community leaders, educators, and advocates. The group was charged with bringing in voices of LGBTQ+ youth into the exhibition, ensuring that the exhibit is as inclusive as possible, and creating curricular materials and resources for teachers across the county to help them fulfill the FAIR Education Act.

(Photo courtesy Lambda Archives)

Dramatic, 8-by-8-foot letters, which spell out S-A-N-D-I-E-G-O, along with iconic photographs and narratives, guide the visitor through the exhibition and anchor major themes including:

  • Identity — who we are and how we define ourselves.
  • Pioneers who have helped shape our region’s LGBTQ+ community.
  • Families we make and choose.
  • Where the San Diego LGBTQ+ community is headed and the ongoing work toward equality and inclusion.
  • The next generation: LGBTQ+ Youth perspectives.

Visitors will hear from those in the LGBTQ+ community about struggling against persecution, the battle against HIV/AIDS, standing strong while facing bullying and intolerance, and the power of joining together through growing activism, political strength and community engagement. Videotaped interviews were selected from the hundreds the Archives has and others were conducted specifically for this exhibit.

A timeline will cover the highlights of local LGBTQ history with photos illustrating some of the moments. Military uniforms, gowns and crowns, a diorama of a Pride parade, T-shirts, buttons, shoes, an Emmy Award, matchbooks from bars, artwork, banners, and much more will be displayed along with memorabilia of some local LGBTQ people who made it to the national arena in one area or another.

(Photo courtesy Lambda Archives)

Thanks to the generosity of some donors, the San Diego History Center has arranged for the rare display of a portion of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, with names of people who held special significance to our region.

“This is a story that needs to be told here in Balboa Park,” said San Diego History Center Executive Director Bill Lawrence. “San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community plays such a vital role in our community and are part of the rich mosaic of this region and with our partners at Lambda Archives, we look forward to providing a place for all.”

A host of public programming is being planned for this exhibition and will feature lectures, films, and other activities throughout its run. The process of searching the Archives collections has also helped point out gaps that the Archives staff and board hope the exhibit will inspire community members to help fill.

The San Diego History Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate, has been preserving our region’s history and making it available to the public since 1928. It operates its flagship museum in the heart of Balboa Park.

The mission of the Lambda Archives of San Diego is to collect, preserve, and teach the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the San Diego and Northern Baja California region. Although most of the collections date to post-1970, there are original materials dating back to the 1930s. History is best reflected in the records and cultural artifacts of cultural artifacts of those people who are directly involved in its events. Lambda Archives is dedicated to preserving and interpreting this important historical material and making it available for learning.

The San Diego History Center is announcing an innovative $100,000 challenge grant. From now until June 30, every $2 raised will be matched at $1 by the History Center through the estate of Parker H. Jackson and Joseph Blankenship. Visit or call 619-232-6203×106.

(Photo courtesy Lambda Archives)

On Monday, June 25, at 7 p.m., Urban MO’s themed trivia night will feature questions about local LGBTQ history created by Lambda Archives. Community organizations are encouraged to field teams to see which group knows their history the best. So far, St. Paul’s Episcopal, Gay for Good, the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, and Stonewall Citizens Patrol are among the groups planning to enter teams. Individuals who think they know their trivia but are not affiliated with any group are also welcome to get some friends together to test their knowledge in a fun, friendly competition. There will be prizes for the top three teams and raffle tickets will be sold as a fundraiser for Lambda Archives. You can enter a team at There is no cost for entry and pre-registering earns a team an extra five points. Fun and a bit of new knowledge go to everyone who attends!

The next walking tour of San Diego’s LGBTQ history will take place Saturday, June 16, at 10:30 a.m. It is a great way to learn about the past of the community and hear some of the information that will be covered in the trivia night. Taking the tour would be a good way to get a jump on the competition. Tickets to the walking tour are available at

— Lambda Archives, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to collecting, preserving and teaching the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in San Diego and the Northern Baja California region, is located at 4545 Park Blvd., in University Heights. To learn more, stop in or visit their website at

One Comments

  1. charles says:

    I think the exhibit officially opens July 8.

Leave a Comment