santa cruz lgbt history
The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History has launched its first virtual exhibit with the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County to acknowledge and celebrate local LGBTQ+ history.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) has launched its first-ever virtual exhibition.

“Queer Santa Cruz: Stories of the LGBTQ+ Community in Santa Cruz County” was created with local organization Diversity Center Santa Cruz County. It includes photographs, videos, early queer newsletters and a collection of oral histories and personal insights.

“The LGBTQ+ community has been involved with the MAH since its inception,” said Exhibitions Manager Marla Novo. “Many of us had talked about doing an exhibit focused on the LGBTQ+ community and it finally all came together.”

In 2014 the Diversity Center donated to the museum an extensive archive of visual materials dating back to the first Santa Cruz Pride Parade in 1974. It also includes photographs from the first Watsonville Prides in the 2000s.

“It was a thrill to partner with the Diversity Center on this project,” Novo said. “They have been amazing collaborators in regards to sharing materials… as well as making sure we make the exhibition as inclusive as possible.”

The Dolkas-Mertz Award from the History Forum helped fund the project.

When shelter-in-place orders went into effect, MAH organizers realized they would have to switch the show to an online format. Staff got to work, learning how to create a virtual exhibit.

“It’s been a lot of work but worth it,” Novo said, pointing out that many older, formerly-local LGBTQ+ people can now view the show from far away.

“This virtual exhibit is a way to connect with them,” she said.

The Diversity Center’s Rob Darrow said that the organization’s Trailblazers History Project, a collection of oral histories produced by Pat Dellin, was also an important component of the exhibit. 

“It honors the people who championed the movements and institutions, empowering their community,” he said.

The MAH plans to open a physical version of the exhibition, once it can safely do so. They are also hosting a webinar series, inviting people to share their personal accounts of the history revealed in the exhibit. 

“Talk to a member of our community today who was here and LGBTQ+ in the 1970s and 80s… They’ve lived through and struggled for a revolution in laws and public attitudes,” said Dellin. “For both our veterans of LGBTQ+ activism and the young [LGBTQ+] of today, for straight people, for families, supporters and historians… recording our memories of the beginning… is important, illuminating, educational, inspirational.”

Click here to view “Queer Santa Cruz: Stories of the LGBTQ+ Community in Santa Cruz County” and participate in the webinar series.

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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