An exhibit detailing the Kansas City area’s part in contributing to the rise of LGBTQ+ rights in America will be extending its stay with the Jackson County Historical Society, located inside the Historic Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square.
“Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” examines the area’s place in the rise of LGBTQ+ rights and highlights how the area was one of the first places where the movement began, according to JCHS Operations Manager Caitlin Eckard.
The exhibit, which features many colored floor-to-ceiling length panels arranged in a rainbow arc, will be staying with the historical society until Aug. 30, nearly a month and a half longer than its previous end date of July 10.
The exhibit is free to see during the Historical Society’s normal office hours, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but Eckard said if someone wishes to see it on Monday, special accommodations can be made by calling ahead of time.
According to Eckard, the exhibit is a project out of the UMKC history department, with several historical society members and friends having contributed to its creation.
“A lot of our friends and colleagues had worked on this exhibit, and we thought it was a really cool thing to put in the history center,” she said. The exhibit’s installation coincided with national Pride month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots – the series of demonstrations and confrontations in New York made on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community that is largely responsible for the beginning of the gay rights movement.
The exhibit highlights areas of the Kansas City community where members of the LGBTQ+ community would seek refuge from persecution, and organizations that actively fought for the community’s rights and safety. One example is the Phoenix Society, a national publication for the gay right’s movement headquartered in Kansas City.
“It was out of Kansas City; they were sending all of these national newsletters and magazines,” Eckard said.
Eckard explained they were originally worried about negative feedback from the community, but the comments have largely been positive. She explained the few negative comments staff received complained the society was “being too political” by installing the exhibit.
“I disagree,” said Eckard. “I think we’re telling the history of an underrepresented community … It’s another layer of Kansas City history that people don’t understand.”
Eckart said she believes the installation is important because many people “don’t understand how persecuted or ostracized these (The LGBTQ+ community) people were.”
“I don’t think the general public understands the LGBTQ community is still being persecuted,” she added. “I just want people to have a different perspective on that history and realize it is history. It’s a story that has to be told. Even if you don’t agree with it or understand it, it happened and it’s part of history.”