If all goes according to plan, Ottawa’s LeBreton Flats neighbourhood will be home to Canada’s first museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history, stories, art and culture of LGBTQ2+ people.
The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity launched its plans and fundraising campaign Thursday for the proposed museum, which would be among the first of its kind in the world.
The centre, an advocacy group based in Ottawa, wants to open the museum by 2021 and said it needs to raise $10 million to make that a reality. The funds would cover construction expenses, as well a year-long consultation with gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and two-spirited communities about how to use the space.
“Today we are sharing our ideas for the space, but we want to be challenged, engaged and open,” said Calla Barnett, president of the centre’s board of directors, at the organization’s launch event at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
“This is not our space, it is yours. Today, we invite all Canadians to send their ideas, wants and needs to us so that we can build a space that we all need and deserve.”
Ottawa developer Claridge Homes is donating the space for the museum out of a new condo tower it is constructing in LeBreton Flats, an area west of the national capital’s downtown core.
Claridge has said it will write off the price of the land, valued at $7 million dollars, and is only charging development costs, pegged at $6 million. The rest of the project will cost an additional $4 million, the centre estimates, bringing the total bill to $10 million.
The proposed 15,000-square-foot museum will be “fully accessible” and will include three exhibition galleries, a theatre, a two-spirit healing room, and spaces for community use available to rent at an “affordable” price, according to the centre. The museum, once open, will be situated steps away from the Pimisi LRT station, located just beneath and west of the new Booth Street Bridge.
Barnett said the centre is hoping to draw on archives and collections across Canada so that the museum can “exhibit the different histories that are told in different areas and regions.” She said the centre also wants to keep the space adaptable.
The Canadian Museum History has said it supports the centre’s efforts to open a dedicated museum, saying the advocacy group is “uniquely positioned” to do so. The history museum collaborated with the centre on an LGBTQ section in its new Canadian history exhibit.
What is ultimately shared and displayed in the museum will be accessible beyond the facility’s physical space, the centre said.
“The space will … be replicable, meaning that when an exhibition goes up in Ottawa, you can print it out at home, in your schools, or in your workplace and recreate the exhibition with info cards, curriculum resources, and interpretation material,” Barnett said.
Yasir Naqvi, a three-term Liberal MPP for Ottawa Centre who is running for re-election in the June provincial election, emphasized the LGBTQ2+ community’s contributions to Canada during his remarks at the campaign launch.
“A lot of the stories are stories of struggle. A lot of the stories are stories that are not known,” said Naqvi, whose party leader is Canada’s first openly gay premier. “It’s extremely important that we learn of the struggle, that we learn of the oppression, in many instances, and the positive outcomes that have come out of those challenges, those marches, those movements [and] those legal cases that allowed for equal rights and equal opportunities for members of the LGBT community.”
The launch event Thursday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
The centre is accepting donations on its website.