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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 22 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 34
Smithsonian to feature LGBT popular culture
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Smithsonian to feature LGBT popular culture

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Smithsonian Institution is adding hundreds of artifacts documenting LGBT popular culture to its collection, the museum announced August 19.

Among the items being donated are pieces from the hit TV show 'Will and Grace.'

Show creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick with TV network NBC are donating original scripts, casting ideas, political memorabilia used in the show, and the series finale. The network agreed to donate props, including a pill bottle and flask, a sign from 'Grace Adler Interior Design' and character Will Truman's framed college diploma.

Kohan told The Associated Press that the Smithsonian's interest in the show featuring Gay principal characters was a validation they never dreamed about when the sitcom began airing in 1998.

'Will and Grace' ran through May 2006 depicting a group of Gay and straight characters, with the main characters ending up coupled and with children.

'These particular guests that were invited into people's living rooms happened to be your gay friends,' Kohan said. 'I don't think people really had the opportunity to have that before, and it served to, I think, make people recognize that your close friends were gay.

'The fact that it's in the American history (museum), maybe we were a part of something that was bigger than we ever imagined,' Kohan added.

'Will and Grace' used comedy to familiarize a mainstream audience with Gay culture, said Curator Dwight Blocker Bowers. It was daring and broke ground in the same way 'All in the Family' did in the 1970s around issues of bigotry and tolerance, Bowers said.

The 'Will and Grace' collection is part of a larger effort by the museum to document LGBT history, 'an area that has not been well understood at the museum,' AP said. Curators are collecting materials from LGBT political, sports, and cultural history.

Other artifacts include the diplomatic passports of Ambassador David Huebner, the first openly Gay U.S. ambassador confirmed by the Senate, and his husband; materials from the LGBT community center in Baltimore; and photography collections from Patsy Lynch and Silvia Ros documenting LGBT rights activism.

From sports history, the museum will receive a tennis racket from former professional player Renee Richards who won a landmark New York Supreme Court decision for Transgender rights after she was denied entry to the U.S. Open in 1975.

'There have always been gender non-conforming people in the U.S., and we've made contributions and lived life since the beginning of the country,' said Curator Katherine Ott who focuses on sexuality and gender.

'It's not talked about and analyzed and understood in the critical ways in which it should be. So for us to build the collection means we can more fully document the history of this country.'

The Smithsonian maintains 19 museums and a zoo in the Washington, DC area. The LGBT exhibits will be housed in the National Historical Museum.

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