Museum highlights LGBTQ community contributions to Central Florida history

The LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida is based online but has a current physical exhibit at The Center

ORLANDO, Fla. – A museum that highlights the accomplishments and the sacrifices of the LGBTQ+ community in Central Florida is featuring a new exhibit.

“This exhibition documents different Queer Spaces,” David Matteson, president of The LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida said.

Queer Space is the name of the exhibit. It tells the different stories of places in Orlando that have been a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community

“We have Out and About books which is a bookstore here on Mills it was so much more than a bookstore, it was a community gather space, it was a place where art exhibitions happened, and where plays went on,” Matteson said.

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The museum was founded in 2005 and is based online but has physical showcases at The Center and other places across Orlando.

Matteson said his organization has traced LGBTQ+ history in Central Florida as far back as 1970.

“Really beginning with Disney’s development, so many of the Queer community grew alongside the growth of Orlando. Now a lot of that is tucked away or hidden away… our job as a history museum is to tell that story, is to find those hidden gems,” Matteson said.

One of those hidden gems can be found at the Powerhouse Café.

Saviz Shafaie was a previous owner of the café and an activist in the 1990′s. Matteson told one story of how Shafaie fought for the right to hold a pride gathering in Winter Park after he had been denied a permit.

“Subsequently they organized kind of a rally to fight that decision, " Matteson said. “And it ended up being a clashing event between these organizers for what was to be a Pride gathering in Winter Park and the Ku Klux Klan and fought one another in the park.”

There are many more stories like Shafaie’s, which is why Matteson said it’s important for more people, especially younger generations, to know about LGBTQ+ history.

“Our history is fragile and its quick to forget the recent past, we have to keep fighting for that future and we cannot forget the struggles that we’ve been through in the past,” Matteson said.

The LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida has a new exhibit that will be hosted here at The Center in November and encourages everyone to come out, take a look and learn something new.

To find out more about the new exhibition and museum, click here.

About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.