History on show as Mardi Gras Museum opens
SYDNEY: From its beginnings as a protest against police brutality and corruption to the “creative, celebratory, glamorous” event it has become today, 35 years of Sydney Mardi Gras history is now open to the public following the launch of Australia’s first gay and lesbian museum on Oxford Street this week.
The temporary exhibit, located inside a City of Sydney-owned building on the corner of Oxford and Palmer treets, will be open until the end of this year’s Mardi Gras festival on March 4.
Costumes, photos, newspaper clippings, video installations as well as posters and banners from the very first Mardi Gras in 1978 will be on display, much of which has been drawn from items from the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA), Sydney’s Pride History Group as well as from Mardi Gras and a number of private collections.
The museum’s launch on Tuesday morning saw the likes of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Sydney MP Alex Greenwich and Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith join broadcaster and activist Julie McCrossin and others involved in the 1978 Mardi Gras in paying tribute to the important role the annual festival now plays.
“This exhibition is incredibly important for the people who have been a part of it but it is even more important for the people who weren’t,” Moore told the gathered crowd.
“There’s a wonderful history here – a history that talks about the wonderful contribution the LGBTI community has made to the vitality, diversity and creativity of our city as well as an amazing contribution to teaching people about acceptance.”
Famed Mardi Gras costume maker, Ron Muncaster, whose outlandish 1980s outfits have already proven to be a collector’s item, said it was the “glitz, the glamour and humour” that had made Mardi Gras into such a well-known international event.
“We get a lot of gay tourists coming to Sydney and I’m sure this museum will be very popular and it will help to educate the general public,” he said.
The museum’s curator, Nick Henderson from ALGA, said he was hopeful the temporary exhibit would prove to be an interactive space.
“I look forward to being able to talk with more of you about the materials on display here and invite you to experience the exhibition and some of the events we will be holding here, including a number of talks with some of our contributors,” he said.
The exhibit opened as attempts to find a permanent home for the country’s first LGBTI museum continue. There are only two such museums in the world – the Schwules Museum in Berlin and the GLBT Historical Society Museum in San Francisco.
Mardi Gras has earmarked the currently vacant T2 site at Taylor Square as a potential home but it is believed Council favours a cycling hub for the site adjacent to the Bourke Street cycleway following a promise made by Moore in 2009.
“We want a permanent museum in this area,” McCrossin said to loud applause. “We don’t just want one in Berlin or San Francisco, we want it in Sydney where we’ve been fighting for so long.
“Museums actively recover stories.”
Following the museum’s launch, a number of City of Sydney councillors, including Labor’s Linda Scott, the Liberal Party’s Christine Forster and Living Sydney’s Angela Vithoulkas, once again reiterated their support for a permanent museum at the T2 site.
“The Mardi Gras Museum needs a permanent home, and I’ll be fighting for Council to provide one in 2013,” Scott said.
Vithoulkas said a permanent home would give Mardi Gras an opportunity to form a base from which organisers could grow funding opportunities and support.
“A financially independent and successful museum would engage tourists, support employment and provide a boost to other local businesses in the Oxford Street area,” she said.
Image: Serkan Ozturk
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