What is QHCN?
The Queer Heritage and Collections Network (QHCN) was founded in May 2020 to increase the understanding of, access to and engagement with LGBTQ+ heritage. We are a Subject Specialist Network with more than 70 institutional members across all nations and regions of the UK, and are supported financially by Art Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Our Steering Group is formed of a partnership between National Trust, English Heritage, Historic England, Historic Royal Palaces and Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (University of Leicester). Each organisation has a strong track record of leading the sector in queer heritage research and programming.
LGBTQ+ collections and histories represent lived experience that has long been erased and misrepresented in heritage discourse. Heritage practitioners today inherit that erasure within collections records, heritage designations, and existing interpretation. QHCN aims to facilitate greater understanding of and engagement with these collections amongst sector organisations and practitioners, the general public and LGBTQ+ communities.
As part of QHCN members have access to formal peer support, opportunities for networking and information sharing, and increased knowledge of current practice and resources available in relation to LGBTQ+ collections, themes and histories. We deliver skills development to equip and empower museums to reach out and work with their local LGBTQ+ communities and to better understand the (often hidden) queer histories and connections within their places and collections. We provide essential support to staff and volunteers who may need peer support to build capability and confidence in addressing the inherited erasure of LGBTQ+ experiences in museum collections and interpretation.
Individuals supported through QHCN hold a wide range of heritage roles, from curation to front of house staff and senior leadership roles, and represent a spectrum of organisations from those with experience and confidence in addressing the inherited erasure of LGBTQ+ experiences to those where an individual may be seeking to take new steps to creating significant change with their organisation.
We expect that there will be benefits to the general public arising from the formation of QHCN, as outputs shaped by the knowledge, expertise and skills shared by and provided to members reach local and national audiences and create enhanced awareness of LGBTQ+ collections in the organisations that we work with. We hope that audiences of all sexualities and gender identities will have the opportunity to experience heritage sites and collections through the prism of lived histories as a result.
The exclusion of LGBTQ+ narratives from the cultural heritage and museum sector until relatively recently has not only overlooked this group but has also disconnected LGBTQ+ people from their past. The greater visibility of queer themes and histories will encourage LGBTQ+ visitors and participants to expand their knowledge of their history and encourage a currently under-served audience to engage with heritage sites and collections. This is especially important in rural areas and smaller towns, which are represented in our list of members.
As museums and heritage organisations across the UK continue to develop LGBTQ+ themed programming, we aim to act as a forum through which best practice can evolve to meaningfully represent and advocate for queer communities. Our objectives and ongoing activities include:
- Mapping the needs of the heritage sector in relation to LGBTQ+ histories.
- Providing peer support to practitioners, particularly in regional areas.
- Delivering a digital programme of training workshops in response to these needs, helping members develop and expand their programming with a focus on public outcomes, including an online training and workshops programme.
- Online presentations of latest research.
Our work is supported by an external team that includes:
- Project Manager Dan Vo
- Development Manager Rachael Lennon
- Research Coordinator Dawn Hoskin
- Communications Coordinator Lucy Whitehead
- Training Coordinator Kris Reid
QHCN was awarded Best Partnership 2021 by the Museums + Heritage Awards, find out more by following the link.