The National Railway Museum has been granted funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to research the contributions of railway workers from the LGBTQ+ community to the industry for the first time.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund has granted almost 100k to the York-based museum, for it’s ‘People, Pride and Progress’ project.
From an often-hostile environment throughout the 19th and much of the 20th centuries to a much more accepting environment, the railway industry has changed a lot for LGBTQ+ employees. However, historic prejudice means that information is not readily available, and few personal records exist.
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The project will create up to 70 oral history interviews with people from the rail industry, documenting their experiences and filling a gap in railway knowledge before it is lost.
The project has been launched with the support and cooperation of the rail industry including Network Rail’s LGBT+ organisation Archway.
It aims to increase understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, develop a greater understanding of the community’s contribution to the railways and to tell more diverse and inclusive stories.
Beginning this month, the project is expected to run until November 2025. Interviews will be added to the museum’s permanent collection and updates and results will be shared with the public throughout the project.
Once complete, the interviews will be made available at all five museums in the Science Museum Group including the National Railway Museum in York and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester. It will be the Group’s first digital archive to be available in this way.
Alison Kay, Archives Manager at the National Railway Museum, said: “The huge shift in attitudes in society and the rail industry over the last 50 years is significant. These changes have not been recorded and risk being lost unless these voices and stories are recorded now. Our work will be guided by the LGBTQ+ community and the rail industry and will enhance the national collection and our understanding of railway history.”
The project will recruit 30 younger LGBTQ+ volunteers currently working in the rail industry, who will be given professional training to enable them to conduct interviews with LGBTQ+ rail employees who had different experiences in the past. The lottery funding will also enable the museum to appoint a dedicated oral history archivist to manage the project.
Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to support the National Railway Museum with this transformative project to record the heritage of LGBTQ+ people in the railway industry. This grant, made possible by the National Lottery players, ensures that the voices and memories of the community can be heard for generations to come.”
People, Pride and Progress has been developed with the rail industry and follows more than three months of initial research with community groups, rail industry contacts, museum professionals, leading academics and experts in oral history.
In addition to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project has also received support from the Friends of the National Railway Museum and ASLEF LGBT+ Representative Committee.
For more information, visit the museum website: www.railwaymuseum.org.uk.