Wear with Pride: LGBTQ badges at the British Museum | Curator’s Corner Season 2 Episode 3

Wear with Pride: LGBTQ badges at the British Museum | Curator’s Corner Season 2 Episode 3

I have in front of me some of the 400 lesbian and gay badges in the collection of the British Museum. I’m Philip Attwood. I’m Keeper of Coins and Medals
here at the British Museum. Welcome to my corner. I think it’s probably little known that the
British Museum has a collection of lesbian and gay badges and the reason that we collect these badges the antecedence of them are the medals that
the Museum has always collected. And what we have here are some late 18th-century
medals some anti-slavery medals and also some medals that were produced for
the general election in 1807. These were all mass produced and you can see
that this one has a little hole. It’s pierced and so it could be worn. These were very popular throughout the 19th century but were completely superseded in the 20th century… in the 1890s in America
the modern button badge was developed. And it immediately took over and superseded
the medal for these purposes because it was cheaper. The British Museum acquired its first button
badges in 1906 as part of a larger collection of medals that was given to us in that year and so when the first badges entered the Museum
they were really quite a new idea. The first large collection of badges to arrive at the British Museum came in 1978 as a donation from a collector and this included a small
number of lesbian and gay badges and we have one of those here. This badge which says: ‘How dare you presume I’m heterosexual’. The badges show a range of campaigns from
the very earliest badges of the Gay Liberation Front from the early 1970s the well-known symbols of gay liberation: the lambda for instance here in a badge that came in 1982 but which was made in the 1970s. And then of course all of the gay pride marches beginning in 1976 and then carrying through over the different years. And we also have individual campaigns such as
the ‘Gay News Fights On’ campaign showing Mary Whitehouse – famous for her ‘Clean up
TV’ campaign. We received a very nice piece of publicity
in 1987 when the badge collection of the British Museum featured in the Pride programme. We have here an article ‘100 years of CAMP
BADGES at the British Museum’ and he says ‘Its collection of lesbian and gay badges
is not widely known but is kept in the butch Coins and Medals section just to the left of those very interestingly painted Greek vases’. It was a good bit of publicity for us and it meant that quite a number of donations
came into the Museum. This badge here is an American badge. It’s a rather beautiful badge It says ‘Radical Radishes’ on it and it has two radishes with the leaves formed into a very decorative pattern and the two radishes have the female symbols and what we were told at the time was that
it had been produced in 1971 by a militant lesbian organisation in the United States… infuriatingly that’s all that we know about it. So if anyone does have any information on
this badge then please leave a message in the comment section. We’ll leave an image
of the badge up at the end of the film so that you can have a good look at it. Badges have been particularly important for the lesbian and gay movement because of the emphasis I think, placed on coming out. Through
wearing a badge, lesbians and gay men ceased to be invisible. The reason that we have this collection of
lesbian and gay badges is because we believe that they are very important social documents. That they mirror what has been an extraordinary transformation in social attitudes in the last 40 or so years and also I think acts as a tribute to the
members of the LGBTQ community who have brought about this transformation through their actions both individually and collectively. If you know anything about this badge, please leave us a message in the comments below.

33 thoughts on “Wear with Pride: LGBTQ badges at the British Museum | Curator’s Corner Season 2 Episode 3”

  1. This book refers to Radical Radishes:


    And this one:

    And this one:

    If you want to read Spanish:

  2. Is this boring for anyone else? I'm not bashing the LGBTQ group, but these types of topics are covered constantly now that it's rather mundane.

  3. It is wonderful to know that such a collection is being gathered at a mainstream museum as part of all of our social history.

  4. The Radical Radishes badge was designed by Pat Maxwell of the GLF (Gay Liberation Front). The design was a reference to “so many of [theor] members were red (Marxist) on the outside but white (capitalist) within” The group only called themselves Radical Radishes for a very short time, Eventually changing their name to “Radicalesbians” “in one interrupted word that understood [their] unity”.
    Information from Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation By Karla Jay Basic Books, 2000, Page 145.

  5. Dear British Museum – have you got the 'meat cleaver' badge (circa 1981) which was produced after the pride march in 1980/1 where people were arrested ?

  6. It's funny to read comments like @zoumios complain about this topic being "covered constantly" …when I search @thebritishmuseum for lgbt videos this is the ONLY one to come up… funny how straight people overestimate how much "coverage" lgbt topics are discussed… maybe that's your bigotry speaking?

  7. I have many of these badges myself but i didn't notice the balloon – shaped ones we produced for Pride in 1983. One fir gay pride, the other for lesbian strength. There were also a whole range of LLGC first anniversary buttons.

  8. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation by Karla Jay is indeed the best source for answering your question.

  9. I well remember acquiring my first Gay Lib badge and wearing it with a certain trepidation and fear to meet some family members at a local pub. Even though I had a cousin "who shouldn't be mentioned" I informed everyone who asked what the badge meant. I eventually left when few people spoke to me but felt my mission had been partly met. Thanks for the memory.

  10. This video should be shown to all the kids who think they invented gay liberation last year.
    News flash: the Stonewall riot happened before your parents were born.

  11. If you'd like to find out more about the British Museum's collection of LGBTQ+ badges, Philip has written a blog post all about them: http://blog.britishmuseum.org/lgbtq-badges-in-the-british-museum/

  12. I guess due to copyright you can't sell replica's of these, I'd love to have some of them even though I'm heterosexual. They are lovely.

  13. Love the intro. In the nineteenth century, Brits with opinions wore proper cast lead manhole covers to express themselves. Then Americans made these cheap gaudy things.

  14. Really brilliant collection and I'm so glad to see LGBT history being curated at such a noteworthy establishment. Thanks for featuring these badges in a video!!

  15. Somewhere around I have a "Gay Whales against Racism" LGBT badge – however, my favourite was the "Jesus was a Punk Rocker".

  16. I have a number of the badges that were made for the Yes campaign in the recent ruckus Australia went through to legalise same-sex marriage. Would the museum be interested in adding them to the collection?

  17. Who else spotted the one of Freddie Mercury in his Cat vest? ~4:43 (I'm a huuuge Queen fan…who also collects buttons and pins.)

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