Dr Miriam Saphira's dream of a Lesbian Museum in Auckland is now a significant step closer to reality with the announcement of new headquarters for the Charlotte Museum Trust's activities.
The office at 58 Surrey Crescent will open on Sunday 17 February 2008 - right in the middle of Auckland's HERO Festival. Shelving has been provided by the Gay Auckland Business Association, and volunteers are classifying and taking inventory on all the items in preparation for relocation.
The new office is a breakthrough for Saphira, who has until now stored the vast collection in her home. A T-Shirt quilt, badge collection, carvings, stained glass Labyrs and a ceramic vulva are among a large number of artworks and Sapphic cultural items adding to a comprehensive collection of books, magazines and even music.
The collection has grown with the help of dozens of generous donations from all over New Zealand - and Saphira says she's always on the lookout for more. "At the moment we're concentrating on the lead-up to gay liberation, and trying to get more photographs of lesbians in the 1960's." Any objects with a lesbian theme and material associated with lesbian events would be warmly welcomed either as a loan or gift to the Trust.
Born in Taranaki, Saphira is well-travelled, having presented her original artworks in solo exhibitions in Australia, London, France and Germany, as well as at home in Aotearoa. She's seen a few collections of lesbian artifacts during her adventures overseas. "There's a women's museum that I've visited in Bonn, Germany. But most of the other lesbian herstory centres around the world are called archives - they keep a lot of printed stuff, but also have a lot of other objects in them. The New York Lesbian Herstory Archive for example is a very big collection that now has its own space in Brooklyn - it was all in someone's apartment, but it just took over everything, including the toilet and the bathroom! There's also a large collection in Los Angeles, which gets funding from California State and Los Angeles City.
"But I haven't ever heard of a 'Lesbian Museum' as such, so I think in New Zealand we'll be the first one with that title."
The Charlotte Museum Trust is still on the waiting list for Auckland City Council premises, and Saphira knows of a few vacant Council-owned properties which would be suitable, so it's a case of 'fingers crossed' - and getting lots of application paperwork done. In the meantime, she's asking for people to support the museum plan by donating the equivalent of a cup of coffee a week in funds, or become a friend of the museum, which costs $50. "It's all tax deductable," she explains. "So far, quite a few people have done that and we're covering the rent."
The Trust's new office will provide space for exhibitions and social events - so Saphira and the team have wasted no time planning a variety of reasons for interested lesbians to drop by. The Remember Us: Women Who Loved Women from Sappho to Liberation exhibition will be on display for the opening in Fabruary and will offer a rare chance to see memorabilia of early Kiwi women who lived with and loved other women. An evening of Coming Out Stories is planned for Thursday 21 February, then Sapphic Songs We Remember - including 'Ode to a Gym Teacher' - will be presented on Friday 22 February.
There's much more to come, reveals Saphira. "We're hoping to do exhibitions on lesbian theatre later next year, and one on lesbian music. Then the following year one on lesbian humour, lesbian poetry, lesbian writing, lesbian sexuality, lesbian sport - the list goes on and on. There's a whole lot of stuff out there that people just don't know about."
Miriam Saphira and the Charlotte Museum Trust can be contacted via the Trust's official website on the link below.