JAMESTOWN – A museum in Jamestown is getting ready to debut a new exhibit focusing on the LGBTQ+ community in Chautauqua County.
The Fenton History Center is set to open the exhibit titled “Protest and Pride” next week.
“I like to say it happened where all the good ideas in Jamestown happen, in the Wegmans parking lot,” said Executive Director of the Fenton History Center Noah Goodling.
Goodling was approached by a member of Jamestown Pride last year who wanted to know what the Fenton History Center had to offer in terms of LGBTQ+ history, after searching their archives, he realized the museum had very little on the subject.
“I checked and we didn’t have anything in our collection,” said Goodling. “We had two pins that had rainbows on them.”
In a move to be more inclusive to the history of the entire community he decided, along with the other board members, that the center should open an exhibit on the local pride movement.
“We made it our mission over the last year or so to collect stories, to collect materials, to build relationships with communities and make sure we were doing better to preserve the history of everyone in our community; and to be fully inclusive to everyone in our community,” explained Goodling.
Since then he conducted a series of interviews from people of all age ranges and backgrounds who represent that community, accepting historical donations for display as well.
The exhibit includes everything from poems, to artifacts, to flags. It also details the history of local protests calling for equality, and even touts a choreographed dance.
“Part of what we want to show is that we don’t have much, and that we want people to continue donating to us and to continue thinking about things that are relevant to their experience,” Goodling said.
Goodling says the museum will take anything that people want to offer, and will even put restrictions on donation release dates if someone doesn’t want it displayed for years, or even after they die.
“A lot of times people feel like their lives or their accomplishments aren’t historical, so they dismiss the things that they’ve owned,” said Goodling. “Most of what is in our collection came from ordinary people. It is only what came from the passage of time that things become historical.”
The museum has received mostly positive feedback, and, to the negative Goodling says: “I would say that we have a responsibility to serve everyone in our community. We are a non-political organization. We don’t choose favorites, and we don’t just work for the people we want to work for or the people who come to us with the most money.”
The exhibit opens Wednesday, March 31 with a virtual ceremony at 5:30 p.m. streamed online. The museum will then be offering free in-person tours until 8 p.m. showing off the new exhibit.
The Fenton History Center will continue accepting stories and artifacts from the community for the center’s archives. Anyone wishing to contribute to this may contact Noah Goodling at firstname.lastname@example.org.