Past Exhibitions

The GLBT Historical Society mounts several temporary exhibitions at the museum every year. This page documents our past exhibitions. Click the title of an exhibition for more information about it.

In addition, we currently maintain two online exhibitions on Google’s Arts and Culture Portal. Click here to view the online exhibitions.

SoMa Nights: The Queer Nightclub Photography of Melissa Hawkins

February 15 – May 27, 2019

This exhibition highlighted the extraordinary vitality of queer nightlife in San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) district during the darkest years of the AIDS crisis. It focused on the work of Melissa Hawkins, a young photographer for the San Francisco gay weekly The Sentinel and other publications from 1986 to 1994.

Two-Spirit Voices: Returning to the Circle

January 31 – May 5, 2019

This exhibition celebrated the 20th anniversary of Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits (BAAITS), an organization committed to activism and service for the Two-Spirit and ally communities of the San Francisco Bay Area.


A Picture Is a Word: The Posters of Rex Ray

October 2018 – February 2019

“A Picture is a Word: The Posters of Rex Ray” surveys graphic works dating from the 1990s to 2014 by San Francisco queer artist Rex Ray (1951–2015).

The Briggs Initiative: A Scary Proposition

September 2018 – January 2019

 In November 1978, Californians decisively voted down Proposition 6, a ballot initiative that would have given the state the power to fire both LGBTQ teachers  and supporters for LGBTQ rights. This exhibition documented the campaign to defeat the measure.

Empowerment in Print: LGBTQ Activism, Pride and Lust

March – September 2018

With one title on display for every letter of the alphabet, each drawn from the over 5,000 titles preserved in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society, this exhibition highlighted the history and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer periodicals produced in Northern California from the 1940s through the 2000s.

Part of this exhibition, entitled “Pioneering Periodicals,” can be viewed online here.

Angela Davis: OUTspoken

February – September 2018

This exhibition drew on rare posters and ephemera from a private collection to highlight the journey of black lesbian activist Angela Davis: from radical scholar, to political prisoner, to revolutionary icon, to public intellectual.


OUT/LOOK and the Birth of the Queer

October 2017 – January 2018

This unique multimedia exhibition explored the story of OUT/LOOK, a groundbreaking national queer quarterly published in San Francisco from 1988 to 1992. It matched 38 culture-makers to one of the 17 back issues of the magazine to find inspiration for new works.

Picturing Kinship: Portraits of Our Community by Lenore Chinn

June – September 2017

“Picturing Kinship” offered a 35-year overview of portraits in painting and photography by San Francisco artist Lenore Chinn. The subjects of the artist’s portraits are individuals who have contributed to the diversity of San Francisco’s cultural landscape in such fields as poetry, visual and performing arts, film, rock music, academia and the LGBTQ movement.

This exhibition can be viewed online here.

Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love

April – September 2017

Mounted for the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love, “Lavender-Tinted Glasses” revisted this history by highlighting the roles of four queers in the making of the Summer of Love: gay poet Allen Ginsberg, gay filmmaker Kenneth Anger, bisexual philosopher Gavin Arthur and bisexual rock star Janis Joplin.

Beartoonist of San Francisco: Sketching an Emerging Subculture

January – May 2017

“Beartoonist of San Francisco” explored the contributions of cartoonist Fran Frisch to the development of the bear community, a subculture that developed in the 1980s to celebrate older, larger, hairier, ruggedly masculine gay men who were largely excluded from standards of attractiveness in gay popular culture.


Noche de Ambiente

October 2016 – February 2017

“Noche de Ambiente” opened a window into the meanings of ambiente—literally meaning “atmosphere” or “environment”—as reflected in Latino drag performance and LGBTQ and AIDS activism in San Francisco from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Through Knowledge to Justice: The Sexual World of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld

October 2016 – March 2017

This exhibition provided an introduction to the life, work and legacy of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935), a defender of homosexual and transgender people in Germany and beyond.

Stroke: From Under the Mattress to the Museum Walls

July – October 2016

A traveling exhibition mounted at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City and at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, “Stroke” presented a historical retrospective of erotic illustrations by artists who worked for gay men’s magazines from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS

April – August 2016

“Dancers We Lost” was a special traveling exhibition that was part of a comprehensive dance history project honoring performers who died due to complications of HIV/AIDS.

Feminists to Feministas: Women of Color in Prints and Posters

March – July 2016

Featuring 29 beautiful posters drawn from the archival collections of the GLBT Historical Society, “Feminists to Feministas” illuminated the role of women of color in the evolving cultural messaging of queer prints and posters.


Reigning Queens: The Lost Photos of Roz Joseph

October 2015 – March 2016

This exhibition presented evocative photographs of San Francisco’s epic drag and costume balls of the mid-1970s.

Thirty Years of Collecting Art that Tells Our Stories

May 2015 – March 2016

This exhibition showcased drawings, paintings, and three-dimensional artworks that are part of the GLBT Historical Society’s Art & Artifacts collection.


1964: The Year San Francisco Came Out

May 2014 – May 2015

This exhibition celebrated the pivotal moment when San Francisco’s queer community, spurred on by an infamous LIFE magazine story, began to define themselves on their own terms.

BiConic Flashpoints: Four Decades of Bay Area Bisexual Politics

May 2014 – April 2015

Centered around four “flashpoints” in bisexual history, “BiConic Flashpoints” surveyed the story of the San Francisco Bay Area’s bisexual activism.