A new interactive map is “making an invisible history visible” by letting users uncover the LGBTQ community’s impact on New York City.
The map, launched by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in late March, highlights queer contributions and culture throughout the last 200 years. With the map, users can sift through nearly 100 LGBTQ-significant locations in the five boroughs.
Everything is categorized by type of space, including famous residences, community spaces, and medical facilities. Users can also apply filters to the map, sorting noted locations by cultural significance, era, neighborhood, and identity.
“Our project encourages you to take a second look at the physical places you walk past every day and to appreciate a history that, until our initiative, has largely been invisible,” the website reads.
The map features a range of important sites, like the Bronx house where Christine Jorgensen, one of the first people to undergo gender confirmation surgery and publicly identify as transsexual, lived in the mid-1900s. It also highlights the Angel of the Waters statue atop the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, which was created by a lesbian sculptor, and the Everard Baths, a well-known Manhattan bathhouse where men would cruise for sex.
“We’re talking about LGBT history, which is often covert, hidden, transitory, dismissed.”
Additionally, the map offers virtual curated tours to explore a specific portion of LGBTQ history in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Tour topics include transgender history, art and architecture, and bars and nightlife.
New York City is one of the capitals of queer culture in the U.S. For decades, the city has been known for having one of the most prominent and vibrant LGBTQ populations in the world. Queer culture and influence are everywhere you turn — even if you don’t immediately see it.
The modern LGBTQ rights movement was born out of the Stonewall Riots in the West Village. Queer writers like Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, and Audre Lorde all called the city home. The work of famed artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat once decorated the New York’s unpolished streets.
From the community’s mark on Broadway stages to haunting memories of the AIDS crisis in apartment buildings-turned-makeshift medical facilities, the community is truly woven into the fabric of New York.
Of the 92,000 sites on the official National Register of Historic Places — which documents all historic locations in the U.S. — only 13 are listed for their association with LGBTQ history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project hopes to change that.
For the past two years, the project has worked to compile places around the city that are rich with queer history, spanning from the 1800s to 2000. While 100 sites are viewable on the map now, the project is ongoing, and historians are currently researching about 350 more sites to potentially add to the collection.
“We hope that our website inspires the LGBT community and youth, who are often not taught this history, in particular.”
But curating the history of the queer community can be particularly, especially due to centuries of stigma.
“We’re talking about LGBT history, which is often covert, hidden, transitory, dismissed,” Ken Lustbader, a historic preservation consultant and one of the project’s founders, told DNAInfo.
Lustbader created the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project in 2014, along with Columbia professor of architectural history Andrew Dolkart and retired historian from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Jay Shockley.
The project recently received a $100,000 grant from New York Community Trust to fund future work on the map as well as archiving efforts. The grant will also help the project in creating official guidance on how states can evaluate sites to officially recognize their LGBTQ significance. Supporters can donate to help fund the work.
“We hope that our website inspires the LGBT community and youth, who are often not taught this history, in particular,” Lustbader said. “Now more than ever it is important to raise public awareness about the community’s contributions to American history, as well as the struggles it has faced in achieving acceptance and equality under the law.”