Saturday, July 17, 2010

Guest Post: The Charlotte Museum

I got to visit the Charlotte Musem recently, curious to see just what a thematic collection of artefacts on the lesbian contribution to the history of New Zealand looked like. Set in an area of light industry, in Mt Albert, the museum takes advantage of the concrete floors to help preserve their collections. They have much to engage the social historian  in terms of timeline and photographic displays. I do recommend to anyone to pop on down there to take a look. -- Timespanner.

The Charlotte Museum of lesbian history is organising what it expects to be the first of many local history events on Sunday September 12.

It will describe what is involved in the founding of a community museum, and different attitudes to women who loved women from the time of colonisation to the present. The event starts at 2pm, and will be followed by nibbles and drinks. Entry is by koha.

The Charlotte Museum, the only lesbian museum in the world, is tucked away in suburban Mt Albert. It moved from its original site in Grey Lynn in November 2009 and opened again in February in a small industrial estate off St Lukes Rd at unit 7a, 43a Linwood Ave. 

It is open to the public on Wednesdays from noon to 4pm and Sundays from 1.30 to 4pm. The museum was founded by Miriam Saphira, and is run by the Charlotte Museum Trust.

The local history event is part of a regular programme of public events and exhibitions. Volunteers are cataloguing its significant collection of lesbian books, magazines, posters, records, coasters, and other ephemera.

Its first exhibition, a survey of lesbian life in New Zealand from the 1800s, was followed by ones on theatre and sexuality. Volunteers are working on forthcoming exhibition about lesbian music and lesbians in sport.

The museum is a treasure trove of fascinating images, artifacts, memorabilia, posters, artwork and information.
The wall displays include prominent New Zealand women who had relationships with women, significant lesbian events from the 50s and 60s, two quilts made out of lesbian and lesbian and feminist t-shirts, and panel from the opening and theatre exhibitions. 

Museum staff and volunteers are knowledgeable members of the community who can expand on aspects of the exhibitions for members of the public who want more information.

Events in 2010 included an Anzac Day talk and photos about the Pramazons, a lesbian feminist peace group that pushed prams from Whakatane to Gisborne in 1983, performing puppet shows, concerts and theatre about a nuclear-free and independent Pacific at local halls every night. 

In May, the museum celebrated the centenary of the birth of Tuini Ngawai, a prolific Ngati Porou songwriter, composer, kapa haka teacher and champion shearer who had relationships only with women. 

In June and July, the museum hosted gay community events talking about the different experiences and perspectives of older and younger lesbians, gay men, takataapui and transgender people, and encouraging dialogue between the generations. 

Contact the museum on 847 5327 or 021 237 0613, email or see


  1. Ohhh fabuuulous...sounds very interesting. I shall twitter. I clicked the link but it said it wouldn't connect. Is that me or you?


  2. Nah Sandy, they gave me the old website address by mistake -- tch! I've just located the new one, and corrected the post and the side link.