Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Since 2000 a group of women discussed how to preserve the many lesbian cultural objects such as labrys, paintings, ceramics, glass and badge collections. The Wellington based Lesbian and Gay Archives (LAGANZ) were unable to accommodate objects so something new was needed to fill this gap.
In 2005, an informal archive group discussed the quandary of a display of over 300 badges and a quilt made of 14 significant tee shirts, each with a lesbian story. An idea formed, ‘Maybe we should have a museum of lesbian culture.’ After all there is so little herstory available for young people to understand the past. The concept of a museum trust was strongly supported.
“If you do not know where you have come from, how do you know where you are going?”
“A museum, so what should we call it.”
“An old fashioned girl’s name.”
Many names were raised… Agnes, Agatha, Elizabeth, Maud, Hermione, Elsie, Charlotte…….
“Charlotte? Now that’s a good one. Charlotte Smith organized events at the KG Club and there was Charlotte Prime also on the committee.”
The name developed from the idea of celebrating ordinary lesbians. Charlotte Prime was a regular member in the 1970’s of the KG Club and had recently died of a heart attack. She was an ordinary lesbian, quiet and unassuming, who lived out her identity in difficult times. Another lesbian member of the KG Club was Charlotte Smith who had also just passed, of cancer. Hence the name Charlotte was chosen.
So Charlotte Museum Trust was formed. The Charlotte Museum Trust was registered as a trust on the 7th of May 2007 with it’s initial trustees being Dr Miriam Saphira, Nicola Jackson and Christine Hammerton. The first expo was done in 2007 at ‘The D Thing’ which was held at the Marco Trust building on Newton Rd.
The initial collection was held by Miriam Saphira which was catalogued with the help of Sarah Buxton and moved into a large room in a heritage building on Surry Crescent in Auckland.
In March 2011 the trust applied to National Services Te Paerangi Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to achieve the National Museum Standards which the trust passed with an outstanding peer comment for our customer service.
Design of our Logo
Now a decision had to be made about a logo, an image to represent our newly formed trust. We searched for images of lesbians from books, erotic postcards, old fashioned sports girls and assorted books.
“What about these two women wrestling? They look strong. We could add them onto a Labrys. I will bring the images and see what you can do, maybe an old fashioned font?”
The old fashioned image was from a hundred year old post card said, ‘The Golden Belt: Lady wrestlers perform the equivalent of the ‘bear hug’ and the ‘leg hook’ while draped in foreign flags – perhaps part of a Sapphic Olympiad?’
Vic Segedin put it together and over the years we tried adding additional imagery on a poster but our strong women have remained our central image and strong theme.
History of Censorship
At the Surrey Crescent venue (2008-2010), a Charlotte Museum Trust Board meeting decided to advertise in the local Harbour News. Our advertisement was deemed as unsuitable because of the nudity in our logo.
“We are a family newspaper.”
So we put a bra on the women.
They still said it was unsuitable so we removed the women and put a flagstaff, rather phallic looking. Ironic but they accepted that.
We waited for visitors. When we were open we put a billboard with our original logo on up at the curbside. We had no visitors from the local paper but one counsellor popped in when she saw the billboard to see what we were about.
Since that year we have had various articles about a secret museum, a closet has opened, a live art project and a wide range of events to encourage people to visit us. They will be surprised when they do.