LGBTQ History: New Project, Curatorial Position at History Colorado Created by Partnership with the Gill Foundation
DENVER, Colo. (February 5, 2020) — A more inclusive strategy for understanding and sharing history is coming to Colorado in 2020.
John Eding, Manager of Communications and PR
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History Colorado and the Gill Foundation announce the Colorado LGBTQ+ Collection Project and the Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ History. Emmy-winning researcher and lifelong Coloradan Aaron Marcus has accepted the position on the core curatorial staff of Colorado’s official state history organization. Over the next two years, Marcus will curate an exhibit to open in the new Ballantine Gallery at the History Colorado Center in 2022. It will travel to History Colorado sites throughout the state.
Marcus now holds a full-time post made possible by support from the Denver-based Gill Foundation, one of the nation’s largest funders of efforts to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. The job focuses on building more robust scholarship and inclusive holdings at History Colorado, which dates back to 1879. The position is also responsible for increased engagement with—and public access to—LGBTQ historical resources and narratives.
“The contributions and voices of LGBTQ people are minimally represented in our collection and interpretation currently,” says Marcus. “This project will help us thoughtfully identify, collect, and make available documents, photos, oral histories and artifacts that tell a compelling and complex story. We’ll know we’re succeeding when more perspectives and experiences are part of History Colorado.”
In addition to funding Marcus’s position and donating objects and archival materials, the Gill Foundation will support outreach to all corners of the state to capture oral histories and source archival materials. The foundation’s 25-year history—studded with popular touchstones, such as the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado's Born Different campaign—began in response to the passage of Amendment 2, a constitutional provision that barred municipalities from protecting gay and lesbian people from discrimination. Though the United States Supreme Court soon thereafter struck down the amendment as unconstitutional, Colorado had by then earned the dubious moniker of the “hate state,” motivating Gill to build public understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people. Today, Colorado has become one of the most LGBTQ-inclusive states in the country, becoming the first state to elect an openly gay governor. To date, the Gill Foundation has invested more than $365 million in organizations around the country, and founder Tim Gill is now the largest individual donor in the history of the LGBTQ movement.
“This partnership between History Colorado and the Gill Foundation is an exciting opportunity to share Colorado’s LGBTQ history,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Our state has come a long way from those early days of being known as the 'hate state' and there is always more we can do to uplift our LGBTQ community. This new position and future exhibit will allow Coloradans to learn more about our past and the incredible contributions the LGBTQ community have made to our state.”
“LGBT history is Colorado history,” said Tim Gill, founder and board co-chair of the Gill Foundation. “We have the proud distinction of being the first state in the country to elect an openly gay governor, a symbol of the state’s remarkable transformation from the ‘hate state’ 25 years ago to one of the most tolerant today. That transformation would not have been possible without the brave LGBT individuals who risked their livelihoods and lives to make Colorado a beacon of fairness and opportunity for everyone, regardless of who they are or who they love. It’s time to tell their stories.”
“Untold stories—stories discovered and shared through an open process of community engagement, rather than a single institutional voice of authority—strengthen our understanding of our rich history and what it means to be a Coloradan,” said Dawn DiPrince, Chief Operating Officer, History Colorado. “The work that comes from this partnership will capture these stories from Colorado's rural and urban communities and bring them to life.”
As an effort built around inclusive co-creation and co-authorship of previously overlooked or ignored histories, this new partnership mirrors several ongoing public engagement initiatives at History Colorado. They include the forthcoming Associate Curator of Hispanic, Latino and Chicano History and Culture, in partnership with the Latino Leadership Institute; the opening of the new Ballantine Gallery at History Colorado Center in November 2019, which features exhibits built on community collaboration; the Women’s Vote Centennial Colorado, a grassroots effort to explore the largest voting-rights expansion in U.S. history through contemporary voices and topics; the Year of La Chicana, a community partnership that connects the core aspects of the Chicano movement with issues of social justice, identity, and inclusion; and the Museum of Memory, a public-history project that helps communities reframe challenges and struggles into histories of resilience and pride.
About the Gill Foundation
The Gill Foundation is one of the nation’s largest funders of efforts to secure full equality for LGBTQ people. Started in 1994 by software entrepreneur Tim Gill, the Gill Foundation supports nonprofit organizations across the nation that advance the rights of LGBTQ Americans by conducting research, educating the public, telling stories, and working within the legal system. In its home state of Colorado, the foundation also makes grants to organizations working to lower barriers to economic opportunity and create a place where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive.
About Aaron Marcus
Aaron Marcus has been with History Colorado since 2008 and worked in the Digital Imaging Studio from 2012 to 2019. In that role, he generated artifact photos that were used in local, national, and international media and publications, expanding access to History Colorado's collections. Marcus worked with Rocky Mountain PBS on three seasons of the Colorado Experience series, winning a 2015 Heartland Regional Emmy Award for the “Sand Creek Massacre” episode. Other episodes he worked on garnered a total of eight regional Emmy nominations. In 2013 he researched and wrote the essay “PrideFest: A History of Denver’s Gay Pride Celebration” for Colorado Heritage magazine, covering forty years’ worth of Denver’s LGBTQ history. In his new role, he looks forward to continuing his ongoing research and working with the community to strengthen our contemporary LGBTQ collections.
About History Colorado
Inclusive, values-driven, and intentional, History Colorado has become a force for finding new ways to serve people in Colorado. In 2018 History Colorado provided programs to more than 18,000 students in their own schools, and assisted more than 40 schools with bus funds, to expand efforts that now serve more than 85,000 students annually. Its all-day Hands-On History program at El Pueblo History Museum responds to the four-day school week that is now administered by 61% of Colorado school districts.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and nine other museums and historic attractions statewide. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.