Tim and Mitchell Gold | John McDonnell/Washington Post | 14306
Former Smithsonian researcher Tim Gold and his husband Mitchell (pictured) are raising money and collecting artifacts to open a national history museum to tell the stories of LGBT Americans at a time when gay rights were frequently a matter of political and cultural debate.
Although the project is years away from having a door to open, it has attracted the support of the Arcus Foundation, which promotes LGBT equality, and individual donors. Contributors provided $300,000 to get the campaign started, and Tim Gold needs $50 million to $100 million to open and operate the museum.
Its 40-page strategic plan, titled “Here I Am,” explores stories of gay men and lesbians and their searches for identity, among them lesbian performers at Harlem blues clubs in the 1920s, young demonstrators from the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, and John Fryer, a gay psychiatrist who advocated for homosexuality to be delisted as a mental illness in 1972.
With the backing of his wealthy husband, who co-founded the $100 million home furnishing company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Tim Gold has been travelling the country acquiring artifacts from gay rights activists and their families, often explaining his project in their living rooms, then following them to pick through boxes in their attics.
There are protest signs from demonstrations nationwide. There is a filmstrip of a 1970 gay pride parade in New York, which Gold serendipitously found buried in a case of gay porn contributed by the Museum of Sex. (“You can’t know what future generations are going to want to watch,” he said.)
There is the violin and music stand owned by Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University freshman who committed suicide in 2010 after a video of him kissing another man was posted on the Internet.
In all, Gold has 5,000 items stored in a climate-controlled warehouse in Forestville, Maryland.