Shire Hall hosts British Museum LGBTQ+ exhibition

Shire Hall hosts British Museum LGBTQ+ exhibition

Published by The Wessex FM News Team at 7:01am 29th September 2019.

Desire, Love, Identity: Exploring LGBTQ+ Histories explores stories from ancient history to the present day.

It looks at how same-sex love and gender diversity are an integral part of the human experience and how this has been depicted differently through society at different times.

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Director of Shire Hall Anna Bright said:

"We're really proud to have this exhibition here at Shire Hall. It's really special to be able to show depictions of LGBT experiences from around the world and throughout time."

James Canning from the Space Youth Project, which runs groups for LGBT+ youngsters across Dorset added:

"This exhibition's great. I think it's really important for young people growing up in Dorset to feel like there is a place that's embracing them and welcoming them and saying: you are valid."

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Left to right: Anna Bright, Shire Hall director; James Canning from the Space Youth Project; Stuart Frost, curator of the British Museum

The exhibition aims to dispel assumptions about the past and includes stories with Dorset connections including:

William John Bankes:

The explorer, Egyptologist and art collector was born in Dorset and lived at Kingston Lacy.

In 1841, Bankes fled the UK and went into exile following a conviction for homosexuality.

Alan Turing:

The mathematician and computer scientist, famous for helping break the Nazi's Enigma code during the Second World War, was a schoolboy at Sherborne Boys School for five years.   

It was announced last month that he will grace the new £50 notes due out in 2021.

The Alan Turing law was the name given to the 2017 UK law that retroactively pardoned those cautioned or convicted under historical laws when homosexuality was a criminal offence.

Virginia Woolf:

The writer lived for a short time in Dorset during her convalescence, and her father was the writer Thomas Hardy's publisher.

She caused a stir on Portland in 1910 when she and friends from the Bloomsbury Group and Cambridge travelled from London disguised as a party of African princes and their interpreters. They pulled off the prank - boarding the HMS Dreadnought - then moored in Portland Harbour. They were welcomed with the full red-carpet treatment and started bestowing military honours on the crew. The hoax was later unveiled in a letter from one of the group to a friend which was printed in the newspapers.

Woolf had an affair with poet Vita Sackville-West for about a decade in the 1920s and the pair remained friends for the rest of their lives.

Valentine Ackland:

Born Mary Kathleen Macrory Ackland in 1906, she changed her name at 19 to the androgynous Valentine.

A novelist and poet, Valentine was often seen out shooting rabbits, dressed as a young man, with a short Eton Crop hairstyle.

She had a 39-year relationship with novelist Sylvia Townsend-Warner and the pair lived in Chaldon Herring and later Maiden Newton in Dorset.

Valentine also had a long-lasting affair during her relationship with Sylvia, with the America heiress and writer Elizabeth Wade White.

Exhibition opening times:

  • 10am - 5pm (last admission 4pm)
  • 21 Sept - 17 Nov
  • Free admission with Museum Annual Pass, which is £9.50

The exhibition has been travelling around the UK, since it was first shown at the British Museum in 2017.