New Exhibit Gives History of LGBTQ Movements in America and Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  June marks Pride Month in the U.S. and this weekend Des Moines is celebrating with different festivities and the Pride Parade.

The Polk County Heritage Gallery downtown turns 40-years-old this year, they are also celebrating a milestone in LGBTQ movements on the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots with an exhibit called ‘Evolution of the Revolution: 50 Years Since Stonewall.’

“Many people don’t realize that Stonewall was a riot at a gay bar in New York City in 1969 which really started the modern gay rights movement,” Des Moines Pride Center President and Exhibit Curator Rick Miller said.

Miller said it was a time when bars were one of the only establishments that welcomed the LGBTQ community. After police raids, the community came together to protest and establish activist organizations. After this, every year in June, organizations celebrated their unity with Pride Parades.

But the Stonewall Riots were just one aspect of the movements in history shown in this gallery.

“It will have everything from the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, to clear back to 1890 when Magnus Herschfield in Berlin Germany created the first studies of sexuality in the human race,” Miller said.

The show integrates national history with history that happened right here in Iowa. And when it comes to change in this state, Miller said it began with the kids.

“We’ve had all kinds of work, working with gay students in schools, and how that’s worked. How they have been dealing with discrimination at their age and how that morphed into civil rights for adults then and ultimately marriage equality here,” Miller said.

Iowa was the third state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009. Miller says this gallery will help people understand the timeline of what the community has been through and where it still needs to go.

“A lot of this has a lot of emotion around it, so people come, and they see this, and they see the combination, what happened, when it happened and it kind of puts it into a different perspective. Even for gay people that know all this and lived all this, it just kind of puts it into a succinct form,” Miller said.

The exhibit is open through June 21 at 111 Court Ave. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but it will also be open this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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