Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights

Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights is a 12-panel traveling exhibit highlighting Kansas City’s surprisingly significant role in the early gay rights movement.

The exhibit originated as a public history class project, aiming to help tell the history that local LGBTQ activists and scholars had already worked to preserve and uncover. Additionally, the exhibit was designed to draw attention to a new historic marker installed in downtown Kansas City publicizing this history.

Led by public history professor Dr. Christopher D. Cantwell and Stuart Hinds, co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA), students worked to draft the narrative arc of the exhibit and create individual panels. Following the class, Cantwell and Hinds hired me as a graduate assistant to serve as one of the exhibit’s curators (with grant funding from Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area). Together, we edited the student content for the final panels. I designed all 12 panels, coordinated with a local printer on their creation, and managed the first two years of the exhibit’s traveling schedule.

In addition to designing the 12 exhibit panels, I also built 12 smaller versions of the panels for display at UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library LaBudde Special Collections, where GLAMA is housed. In order to reach as wide of an audience as possible, I also created a digital version of the exhibit, available here.

In 2018, Making History received the National Council on Public History’s Student Project Award. The entire project, including the exhibit and the marker installation, received the Midwestern History Association’s 2018 Alice Smith Prize in Public History. Cantwell, Hinds, and I co-authored an article on the project for the May 2019 issue of The Public Historian.

Since its creation, Making History has been exhibited at regional libraries, historical societies, universities, and other sites, including the Kansas City office of the Missouri Humanities Council. Nearly 6,000 people have visited the Making History digital exhibit. The physical exhibit continues to tour the region at no charge upon request.


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