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A British Museum touring exhibition Desire, love, identity: exploring LGBTQ histories has been travelling to five venues around the UK to very positive feedback. This followed an initial display at the British Museum in 2017, which marked the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act.

Between September 2018 and November 2019, the exhibition visited the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), National Justice Museum (Nottingham), Bolton Museum (Bolton), Norwich and Norfolk Millennium Library (Norwich) and Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum (Dorchester), reaching an impressive 264,644 people – the highest figures we’ve had for a touring exhibition in over 6 years.

This exhibition is all the more significant because it was originally meant to be a four venue tour – the final venue was specially added on due to the tour’s success and positive feedback.

Developed in consultation with community partners, the exhibition looked at how same-sex love, desire and gender diversity are an integral part of the human experience, and how this has been depicted differently through society throughout various times. Challenging visitors to question their assumptions about the past, the exhibition spanned ancient history to the present day. Based upon Professor Richard Parkinson’s award-winning book, A Little Gay History, the exhibition offered glimpses into LGBTQ+ experiences throughout history using the British Museum’s collection, from famous figures like the poet Sappho and the Roman emperor Hadrian and his lover Antinous, alongside lives of those whose names are lost to us.

Desire, love, identity formed part of the British Museum’s National Programmes, which gives people around the UK the chance to view these fascinating and diverse objects, including the Ain Sakhri lovers – the earliest known sculpture of a couple making love – up close and outside of London


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