University of Exeter: New butterfly-inspired museum installation highlights LGBTQ+ voices

The installation is part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded ‘Out and About: Queering the Museum’ project, run in partnership with the University of Exeter, which aims to celebrate LGBTQ+ heritage embedded in the rich collections at RAMM. The project team have worked with curators at RAMM to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in the South West to uncover, create and share existing and new LGBTQ+ heritage at the museum.

For the new installation, LGBTQ+ people have been asked to select objects from RAMM’s collections that resonate with them in interviews conducted by the Out and About project team – the University of Exeter’s Professor Jana Funke and socially-engaged writer Natalie McGrath. The installation includes extracts from these interviews, which visitors can explore using an interactive display created by design studio and project collaborators Stand + Stare.

The display is shaped like a butterfly, inspired by the collection of butterflies at the RAMM, as well as the stories which describe transformation, beauty and spreading your wings.

There are two ways for visitors to enjoy the work – firstly through selecting and listening to the personal stories connected to the extraordinary array of objects, and secondly by standing with your back to the installation so you can become a giant butterfly yourself.

Ellie Coleman, RAMM’s engagement officer, said: “The aim of this new Out and About installation is to celebrate LGBTQ+ heritage and encourage visitors to explore the collections from different perspectives. At RAMM we are dedicated to creating platforms for underrepresented and marginalised voices, and the new Stand + Stare interactive display will allow us to share oral histories from LGBTQ+ people and explore ways of telling our shared history.”

Professor Jana Funke said: “It has been an absolute joy and privilege to interview other LGBTQ+ people, many of them with a connection to the South West, for this installation. The interviews represent a new archive of LGBTQ+ heritage and open up fascinating perspectives on the museum collections.

“We often rightfully focus on how difficult it is to access LGBTQ+ heritage, which has frequently been erased and devalued. It is all the more important, then, for the interviews demonstrate the overwhelming richness of LGBTQ+ voices and histories. The beautiful and playful installation, designed by our collaborators Stand + Stare, offers the perfect home for these stories, and we cannot wait to hear what other museum visitors make of them.”

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