This thesis focuses on the methods through which art museums represent LGBTQ identities, facilitate discourse about diverse sexualities through programming, and address targeted media controversy. Through the analysis of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture (November 2010 – February 2011) in comparison to the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition (November 2011 – February 2012), I discuss effective methods of engaging diverse communities when faced with opposing voices or perspectives. Hide/Seek was a ground-breaking exhibition which publicly interpreted LGBTQ identities through the lens of artwork, spanning from the late 19th century to the post-modern period. I analyze the curatorial choice of works included in the exhibition, methods of representation, and successes in highlighting LGBTQ identities and histories that had not been previously acknowledged at the museum. I evaluate the effectiveness of programming used to support the exhibition and engage both museums’ communities and examine how each museum responded to media backlash. In doing so, I highlight the importance of programming when addressing topics of identity, human rights, and social activism and provide recommendations for contemporary institutions when developing programming for exhibitions about these subjects. Such programming is vital to reaching diverse communities and facilitating discussion that helps to further the equality and human rights of all.
Museum Studies (BS)
Department, Program, or Center
Department of Performing Arts and Visual Culture (CLA)
Vernacchio, Anna, "The Role of Programming in Interpreting LGBTQ Identities in Contemporary Art Museums" (2019). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus