In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan has teamed up with the National Park Service and Google to launch a virtual, interactive “living” monument on the web and via an augmented reality app complete with videos and information on LGBTQ history.
The virtual monument, dubbed “Stonewall Forever” and virtually based in Christopher Park outside of the Stonewall Inn — site of the Stonewall National Monument created by President Barack Obama — allows folks to click around to learn about various periods in queer history, even dating back to the years before June 1969 riots at Stonewall. The project also includes a short documentary featuring interviews with LGBTQ people who recalled the atmosphere for queer folks during the Stonewall era and told stories of how people in the community pushed back against police resistance and organized the kind of activism that sparked change in the city and beyond.
The virtual monument — which can be viewed on desktop or mobile device — also includes interviews with LGBTQ pioneers of the Stonewall era as well as audio clips, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other historic documents of the past.
“Creating Stonewall Forever with support from Google presented the rare opportunity to broaden the story of the Stonewall Riots and provide a richer, more diverse narrative about one of the most influential events in the fight for LGBTQ equality,” said Glennda Testone, the Center’s executive director. “We were proud to serve as the conduit to the community to bring a wide variety of voices to the narrative, particularly from people of color, young people, and the trans community, and are honored to be part of preserving LGBTQ history.”
The project was funded through a $1.5 million grant from Google first announced two years ago, a year after the Stonewall National Monument was dedicated.
The project allows folks to contribute photos and text of their own, fostering a collaborative effort to tell the stories of the community. Numerous activists and celebrities have already provided their own pieces.
“While the Stonewall Riots happened 50 years ago, we were inspired by the idea that the LGBTQ movement is very much alive today in people all around the world,” said Jesse Juriga, who serves as the creative director at the Google Creative Lab. “We wanted to use technology to rethink the idea of what a monument can be and make a living monument — one that everyone, everywhere can visit and everyone can add to — to continue to grow this history and make it as inclusive as possible.”
LGBTQ history has entered the spotlight as WorldPride arrives in New York and the 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots quickly approaches. The city rolled out plans on May 30 to create two monuments honoring two trailblazers, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who were major figures in the movement to advance LGBTQ rights in the years following the events at Stonewall.
Also just in time for Stonewall 50, the city is also on the verge of giving landmarked status to six sites that have played key roles in LGBTQ history: The LGBT Community Center at 208 West 13th Street, the Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street, James Baldwin’s residence at 137 West 71st Street, Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street, the Women’s Liberation Center at 243 West 20th Street, and Audre Lorde’s residence at 207 St. Paul’s Avenue on Staten Island.