I visited Pride in Suffolk’s Past at The Hold, and from the very moment you walk in you can see the care placed in every detail of this exhibition. You step back into the past and follow history through a structured timeline, which reminds you every step of the way about the UK LGBTQIA+ history. The exhibition took nearly 2 years to complete with a range of source materials from the LGBTQIA+ Archives.
The colours of the rainbow hang from the walls and each colour has a range of information showing the research process, quotes, poetry to pause and take a moment of reflection. The boards are community focused and like the exhibition are careful with different representations and the shared history. A noticeable feature is that the exhibition decided not to use modern-day labels with historic figures to stick with timeline as much as possible. Since language is not tampered with to suit modern-day terminology, there is a warning given at the beginning of the exhibition.
Aside from the history, there is a huge focus on individuals such as Colonel Barker. In a glass case you can see some amazing artefacts on loan from the National Archives in London like a marriage certificate. At first glance, it is simply nothing more than a marriage certificate, but when paired with other information and items you understand that Colonel Barker led a very interesting life. Starting at the very beginning, it is understood that Colonel Barker was actually born with female genitalia. He then went on to lead a rather successful life, identifying as a male and running restaurants and businesses. However, he was eventually discovered and charged with fraud with the marriage certificate used as evidence in trail. A particularly interesting fact is that after his arrest, his wife seemingly understood that he was transgender from a newspaper article. Colonel Barker was just one of the individuals you can see at the exhibition!
As you leave the past and walk into the modern-day section, you’ll find there are lots of current discussions on small coloured plaques which will be added into the archives along with other artefacts. Along the way you can compare and contrast the history which is intriguing to see develop. The exhibition also has audio posts and touchscreen points as you venture into the modern-day section. This is a great digital touch to the exhibition and you can watch videos from the BBC archive going back to the 1950s! My personal favourite to watch was the 2019 Suffolk Pride virtual video, it showed the importance of Pride and reminds the audience that Pride is not only a celebration but is still a protest. To further the implement that Pride is a protest, at the end of the exhibition there is a small touchscreen that shows you the LGTQIA+ rights from all around the world. It focuses on legality rather than society and you’d be surprised by some of the answers!
Not only do you have the exhibition itself, you also have curator tours, virtual art workshops, escape rooms and a pride gala. To find more details and book your tickets visit www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/
- Maya Hull, Digital Ambassador