Getting to Know FCNY’s Partner Projects: The American LGBTQ+ Museum

• 6 Minutes

We connected with Ben Garcia, the Executive Director of The American LGBTQ+ Museum, to learn more about its important mission. The Museum is in the early stages of developing a partnership with The New‑York Historical Society, and will create inaugural programming and exhibitions while incubating there. Stay up to date on museum news.

“We envision a world in which all people work toward and experience the joy of liberation.”

– Ben Garcia

Please tell us a bit about your organization and its mission.

The American LGBTQ+ Museum preserves, investigates, and celebrates the dynamic histories and cultures of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, as well as those of the emergent and adjacent identities among our communities. Using exhibitions and programs, we seek to advance LGBTQ+ equality through the lens of social justice movements, including, but not limited to, race, gender, class, immigration, and disability. We envision a world in which all people work toward and experience the joy of liberation.


How did you start working for the Museum?

I have worked for 20 years to help museums become places of welcome and belonging for all people. I started as a gallery guide and educator, moved on to exhibition development, and then served in middle- and upper-management administrative roles, before joining the American LGBTQ+ Museum as Executive Director. I have presented and published regularly on creating structural equity in museums through transparency, accountability, fair labor practices, and by adding missing voices and perspectives. Prior to joining the American LGBTQ+ Museum, I worked in various roles as an educator and administrator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Skirball Cultural Center, and Hearst Museum of Anthropology. I then served as Deputy Director of the Museum of Us, and as Deputy Executive Director and Chief Learning Officer at the Ohio History Connection. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with a B.A. in Art and from Bank Street College of Education with an M.S. Ed.


What drew you to the Museum?

I joined the American LGBTQ+ Museum because I saw it as an opportunity to care for our queer ancestors. This museum will give us the opportunity to preserve and advocate for queer histories that have previously been marginalized or entirely erased by systems of education. In our work at the museum, we’ve acted from the very beginning to center inclusive narratives and restorative public histories, stories that will unravel toxic webs of stigma and ignorance that plague LGBTQIA+ identities.


What does an average day/week look like for you at the Museum?

Each week, our goal is to continue building relationships for our museum to thrive as a school for activists. This involves fundraising conversations, hosting public programs to increase awareness, meeting with key stakeholders to bolster our museum’s stamina and trustworthiness within Queer communities, and so much more.


What are the cornerstones of your organization?



We are committed to a world wherein power is equitably shared among all people, including LGBTQ+ people.


We are mindful of the multi-layered identities of LGBTQ+ people and communities, and we are committed to diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of our work.

Honesty and Transparency

We share our decisions and processes, and we welcome critique and feedback.


We take risks and advocate for the needs of all LGBTQ+ communities, including addressing areas of tension and difference among us.


We are of the community. We work through shared authority and partnership with those who have come before us and those who work alongside us.


We take pride in the victories and resilience of our communities, and we draw inspiration from that energy to continue in our pursuit of liberation.


How will the Museum impact the community?

While other great institutions and organizations exist to investigate, preserve, and tell our histories, we believe a national LGBTQ+ museum is overdue. How can our community effectively and proudly face the challenges ahead of us without knowing where we have been? How can we control the narrative about who we are, if we don’t have a space for sharing our

stories with the broader community and enshrining our position in American society? The forthcoming Museum will seek to:

  • Illuminate LGBTQ+ history as integral to human history
  • Educate our communities on the evolving, complex, and sometimes internally contentious narratives of LGBTQ+ history
  • Provide a physical space for LGBTQ+ people that fosters individual dignity and unifies across generations and differences
  • Support a new generation of activists to advance social change
  • Preserve artifacts, personal stories, and intangible heritage that are being lost every day


As a new organization, what are your hopes for the future?

The Museum’s space will be vibrant and welcoming, both visually and cognitively, for the entire LGBTQ+ community, beginning with our future space at the New-York Historical Society. We hope to implement a colorful, lively, immersive, and exploratory set of exhibitions, running counter to common conceptions of museums. In addition to an active public space, we hope to launch an ambitious agenda of public programming to engage visitors in-person and virtually.


What is a recent project or accomplishment your organization is proud of?

We were very proud to launch our first schedule of in-person public programming this past October at the New-York Historical Society in support of the “Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning & Reclaiming” exhibition. Programs feature panel discussions with contemporary queer witches, fashion designers inspired by the occult, and dance performances. The programs so far have been a smash success, garnering hundreds of attendees and filling NYHS’ galleries with a diverse and engaged audience.


What is some advice you would like to give to someone who wants to start a nonprofit?

It’s often said that starting a non-profit is a lifestyle, not a job, and I certainly agree with that sentiment. When you’re starting your organization, be sure that your mission–your core idea for the institution’s actions–will sustain you every day that you wake up.


What do you wish you had known before you had gotten started?

Not being a native New Yorker, I wish I had known more of the LGBTQ+ & cultural leaders in New York City!


How has the Fund impacted your organization?

It has been a huge weight off our shoulders to have our human resources, financial administration, and benefits managed so that we can focus on building our program.