Preview  ⁄  Arts & culture

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

A new collaboration between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought SW and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture by reimagining objects from the RAMM collections.

Ramm   Lgbtqia+   Exeter pride  

Exeter RAMM launched an exhibition to celebrate LGBTQIA+ history on the eve of Exeter Pride last night at the second of its after-hours Lates events.

The Rainbow Trail is the result of five months collaborative work between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought South West and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter.

The trail is the first of its kind for the museum. It invites visitors to consider what it might mean to have the museum as queer space, to queer the museum itself, by thinking about gender and sexual diversity now, in the past and across the globe.

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019 Queering RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019. Remixed image via Wikimedia Commons.

The collaboration began when RAMM approached Natalie McGrath to look at how the museum could become a space where LGBTQIA+ people might see their experiences and histories reflected, and how the museum might open up its collections to reveal reimagined stories. Natalie and Jana Funke then set out to explore the museum through the eyes of young people who identify as LGBTQIA+ from Exeter College and X-Plore Youth Devon, a local charity that runs LGBTQ youth support groups.

Jana said: “We had a conversation with them about what would it even mean to have the museum as a queer space. Does it mean we have to have objects that somehow depict queer people? Or that are made by queer artists? What is a queer object?”

Insight came from the group: “One of the young people was brilliant: they said we don’t need an object that is grounded in LGBT history, we need stories around the object that show how it may resonate.”

Natalie added: “It became a really playful, open, creative and very queer way to think about how any object can be queer if we frame it in a certain way.”

Georgian silk gown Not just a Georgian dress. Photo: Vanessa Miles.

A very open brief emerged. Jana said: “We asked the young people which historical figures do you know? Who are your queer icons? What is missing in history? What do you wish you had learned in school?” Their answers led them to a silk gown. “We were inspired by a television show called Pose, about the drag scene in 80’s New York. In the show there’s a group of queer, trans, gender diverse people who steal all these regal, royal costumes and objects from the museum in New York and do a big drag show.”

“We realised if they were to break in to the RAMM this would be one of the objects they might steal. It’s linked to black queer culture, latinx queer culture, which otherwise might not be represented in that particular gallery. This way we can queer the museum but can also have an intersectional approach, so it’s not just white, British, colonial history but other stories as well. It’s a very playful interpretation.”

Natalie added: “If we think about something like feminism from an intersectional point of view, there isn’t just one feminist story and there isn’t just one story that a museum can tell. There are so many, multiple stories within the collections themselves. Individual objects themselves present multiple stories.”

Butterflies at RAMM Butterflies on the Rainbow Trail at RAMM. Photo: Vanessa Miles.

The exhibition represents nothing less than a reinvention of the objects themselves, which are finding a new identity by being seen this way.

Jana said: “The idea of looking at RAMM as a space that is coming out of a colonial, patriarchal, history then saying let’s come in and queer it and look at it from a different perspective is pretty powerful. And the museum were brilliant at letting us do what we wanted. They didn’t try to tell us you have to do this, or you have to work in a particular way. It was more like, we want to work with you and see what ideas you have to open up the space.”

Natalie said: “And we learned a lot from the young people. They were really engaged and were very articulate, intelligent and hungry to know more.”

Jana added: “I was really impressed. There were things I teach that I have to explain to my first year students at the university but the young people just got it, they knew it anyway. Some of them have even started their own LGBTQ classroom initiatives.”

“This is just the beginning. RAMM are really onboard: we see this as the launch of something we can develop, hopefully bringing more voices to the museum. In the autumn we are going to start giving tours, walking round the museum with people and talking about the objects. And we also want to capture other voices, more young people, but also older people and people of colour who come from different ethnic backgrounds, to find other ways we can queer the museum.”


The Rainbow Trail is now open at RAMM. A printed guide is available in the museum reception and on the RAMM website.


 is managing editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Greater Exeter CIC.

 

 contributed visual materials to this article.


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News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

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Exeter Clifton Hill sports centre

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Clifton Hill sports centre – the background

Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and dumped a huge amount of snow on the roof of Exeter's Clifton Hill sports centre, setting off a chain reaction which has ignited two campaigns and put Exeter City Council's approaches to competence and openness into sharp focus.

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Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

Profile  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

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Exeter City Council press and public exclusion notice

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

What does your council know that you don't know you don't know?

Extracting information from councils is hard work but increasingly necessary for local democracy.

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Greater Exeter Strategic Plan banner

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan GESPing for air?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan has been a long time in gestation. When it finally arrives, will it deliver?

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Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exeter Extinction Rebellion stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

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Kaleider Mikrofest Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter Princesshay

Review  ⁄  Arts & culture

Out of sight, out of mind

A performance of From The Light of The Fire, Our Dancing Shadows in Exeter for Kaleider Mikrofest appears to favour illusion over truth in a confused rendering of Plato's cave allegory that leaves both performers and audience in the dark.

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Exeter St James period housing stock

Comment  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

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Historic Exe Bridge traffic

Comment  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

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