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NY Public Library Exhibit – Love and Resistance: Stonewall 50

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I recently visited New York City for a week and happened upon this exhibit by accident. I was walking to my hotel and decided to go past the New York Public Library on the way. When I saw the banners for a 50th anniversary exhibit about the Stonewall Riots, I had to check it out.

On the third floor of the Steven Schwarzman building, you’ll find the Rayner Special Collections Wing and Stokes Gallery. It’s basically a long hallway, but it has the most fantastic collection of artifacts.

You are greeted by the Love+Resistance logo in neon at the doorway adorned with a collage of photos. The exhibit takes you on a timeline from the early days of underground LGBT newsletters and magazine, tensions after the anti-gay Time magazine article, and the events that led up to the riots and the beyond.

There are historic publications on view like Mattachine Review, The Ladder, and Transvestia. The exhibit does a great job of explaining the importance of these periodicals in a time when the public exchange of information was not easy or welcome. In a time before social media, these publication were a way to unite the community.

Few photos exist from the riots in 1969 but there are many from the Christopher Street Liberation Parade, which would later become the Pride parade. There is a wonderful collection of photos by photojournalists Kay Tobin Lahusen and Diana Davies. Many of these photos are now iconic. There are also pieces of ephemera like letters and posters from the early gay liberation parades.

There is a section on activism that follows the early protests starting before Stonewall and continues on through the days following Stonewall and the years that followed. At that end of the hall is a screening booth showing footage and interviews.

The exhibit might seems small, but it is powerful. I loved seeing the original letters and posters. I also loved seeing the photos, some of which I have seen online, some I haven’t see at all. It’s incredible to me that it’s been 50 years. While we have come a long way from those days, we still have so much more growing to do.

This exhibit will be up until July 21st, 2019. Check out the NY Public Library site for more info. https://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/stonewall50

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