Beswick resigns as GLBT Historical Society ED

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday September 14, 2021
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Terry Beswick is stepping down as executive director of the GLBT Historical Society. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Terry Beswick is stepping down as executive director of the GLBT Historical Society. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The GLBT Historical Society announced Tuesday that Executive Director Terry Beswick is stepping down, effective September 15.

The email blast announcing the resignation stated that Beswick is leaving "as he leaves to pursue other career and life opportunities."

Beswick, a gay man who has been head of the society since 2016, told the B.A.R. September 14 that he is not ready to discuss what those opportunities are.

"I'm actually not going to be discussing, right now, my future employment until after I leave the society," Beswick said.

He said that leading the society was a "great, rewarding opportunity."

While he'd been mostly working remotely from Palm Springs for some nine months, Beswick is planning on returning to San Francisco in October. He told the B.A.R. he did not apply to lead the LGBTQ history museum scheduled to open in New York City three years from now, which officially broke ground Tuesday, though he had considered it.

"It's got a good strong position," Beswick said of the historical society and "a great staff."

"I'm always going to be a supporter of the historical society," he continued.

Beswick's departure comes roughly a month prior to the nonprofit archival group's Reunion gala being held virtually Thursday, October 21. He is being succeeded on a temporary basis by Kelsi Evans and Andrew Shaffer, who will be serving as interim co-executive directors until a new permanent ED is chosen. He expressed confidence they will lead well.

Evans and Shaffer signed the email statement announcing Beswick's departure. Evans is the director of the Dr. John P. De Cecco Archives & Special Collections with the society, and Shaffer directs the society's outreach, media, and fundraising programs.

Under Terry Beswick's leadership the GLBT Historical Society has undertaken efforts to relocate its Castro museum to a nearby freestanding location. Photo Courtesy GLBT Historical Society  

"As the interim co-executive directors, we express our sincere gratitude to Terry for all the work he has done to create a strong, resilient organization," they stated in the email. "When Terry joined the society five and a half years ago, we were a small set of loyal volunteers, contractors, and two other staff members. During his tenure, the team grew substantially, and so did the society's impact. We now manage more than 1,000 archival collections, and share LGBTQ history with tens of thousands of people all over the world every year. We look forward to continuing to preserve and share our irreplaceable history."

Maria Powers, chair of the historical society's board of directors, stated in the email that "the society has become a stronger, more diverse and more effective organization during Terry's tenure and we are grateful for his efforts on behalf of LGBTQ history.

"Terry leaves us well-positioned for future growth, and we know he will continue to make a positive impact in our community," Powers continued.

The society runs the museum of the same name in the heart of the city's LGBTQ Castro neighborhood on 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood streets and for some years now has been searching for a larger, permanent location in the area. As the B.A.R. previously reported earlier this year, Mayor London Breed budgeted $12 million for the city to build the first large-scale, freestanding LGBTQ history museum, though city funding for the existing museum is being decreased.

As the B.A.R. reported in October 2019, the archival group had determined it made the most sense for it to construct a full-scale LGBTQ Museum and Research Center somewhere in the Castro neighborhood based on the recommendations of a feasibility study it had conducted. The consultants estimated that a combined facility would require a gross building size of 40,000 square feet, with around 20,000 square feet dedicated for the exhibit area, and draw upward of 106,000 attendees per year.

In addition to Breed both District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), gay men who represent the Castro, have embraced the concept of the larger facility and pledged their support to bringing it to fruition. The city had looked at buying the building that once housed a Pottery Barn at the corner of Market and Castro streets as a site for the LGBTQ museum possibly combined with affordable housing but balked at the reported $15 to $18 million price tag the property owner wanted.

The historical society last year was planning to identify a location for the museum and launch a capital campaign to pay for its construction but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It opted not to sign a sublease for a vacant office space that had housed a real estate firm on Market Street near 17th, as the B.A.R. reported in May, due to the health crisis upending its operations. Both its Castro museum and archival center in a downtown office building were closed throughout much of 2020.

In a statement, Mandelman told the B.A.R. that his office is losing a "strong partner."

"Terry has been a strong partner in our efforts to preserve and commemorate San Francisco's queer history," Mandelman stated. "He worked closely with my office to landmark the Lyon-Martin house and grow support for a large-scale LGBTQ museum in the Castro. I wish him well in his next chapter."

Breed's office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Beswick was formerly a principal leader at the Castro Country Club, a sober space, from 2009-2016. A longtime AIDS activist, Beswick was once an assistant editor for the B.A.R.

Updated, 9/14/21: This article has been updated with comments from Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

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