Oscar Wilde’s Original Cell Door To Return To The Galleries of Justice Museum For New Exhibition

February 2, 2017toFebruary 19, 2017


Members of Nottingham’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) community have been involved in creating a brand new exhibition at the Galleries of Justice Museum, which will feature playwright Oscar Wilde’s original cell door.

Celebrating LGBT History Month and also linking to the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the 120th anniversary since Oscar Wilde was released from Reading Prison, the door will be on display at the museum from 2nd – 19th February.

The Galleries of Justice Museum’s Senior Curator and Archivist, Bev Baker has been working with a group of ten people to develop interpretations for the new exhibition, Oscar Wilde and the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality.  The exhibition will include a timeline which explores the various legal developments that have led to greater equality for members of the LGBT community. It will also include audio interpretations detailing the experiences of local people who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or trans. In addition, the exhibition will celebrate the many individuals from our cultural heritage who form part of the wider, international LGBT community. There will be an opportunity for visitors to leave comments about their own experiences.

Born October 1854, Oscar Wilde was a playwright, novelist, critic and poet. His famous works include The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He was also one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Wilde was imprisoned at Reading Gaol between 1895 and 1897 under the charge of gross indecency.  After his release from prison he spent the rest of his life in Europe, publishing The Ballard of Reading Gaol in 1898. He died in Paris in November 1900.

Tim Desmond, Chief Executive for the Galleries of Justice Museum said: “The Museum has a close connection with Wilde. Our collection includes both his prison door and the Bow Street Dock in was tried in and Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland is also one of our patrons. It remains a tragedy that Wilde was sent to prison for his sexuality and it is vitally important that, as a museum, we celebrate the LGBT community and reflect on the value of equality and diversity.”

The cell door which features in the exhibition forms part of the Galleries of Justice Museum’s collection, which is UK’s largest collection relating to law, justice, crime and punishment.. The door returns to the museum following its appearance in a major exhibition at Reading Prison in 2016. After its display at the Galleries of Justice Museum in February, the door is being loaned to Tate Britain where it will feature in their new exhibition, Queer British Art 1861 – 1967, which runs from 5 April – 1 October 2017.

Rosey Cox, Project Officer and LGBT Lead at Nottingham City Council, was also involved in the initiation of the project. She said: “The initial idea was to always involve and have contribution from members or allies of the LGBT community. When the opportunity to be involved in this fantastic project was offered, the response was overwhelming. The group would meet on a monthly basis and discuss ideas, plans and the logistics of pulling the project together in the best way possible. Additional work would be undertaken via email and over the telephone.

“My personal experience of working with the group has been great; there was commitment, contribution and structured input from the beginning. For the LGBT community I think the opportunity to be involved was well perceived and to be told they would also be personally acknowledged was fantastic. I believe that any piece of work whether it be a project or consultation, if it is likely to impact or improve lives of the LGBT community, it is imperative that their voice and contribution is heard and incorporated, it’s about a community feel.  The LGBT community is a good place to learn so much about gay history and culture. Too often we don’t actually know our history. Knowing your history is important and it helps capsulate who we are, to be part of exhibiting such a renowned icon within the LGBT community is amazing.”

The exhibition will run at the Galleries of Justice Museum from 2 – 19 February. It will be the last exhibition at the museum before capital work begins, as part of a £1million Heritage Lottery Fund supported project. The museum will then relaunch as the National Justice Museum in Spring 2017 and will include an array of new exhibition areas and interactive activities for all to enjoy.


Exhibition: Oscar Wilde and the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality

Dates: Thu 2 – Sun 19 February 2017

Venue: Galleries of Justice Museum

Tickets: This exhibition is available to view within the general tour / admission price for the museum £9.95 for adults (Concessions available).

To book: Call 0115 952 0555 or book online here

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