South Bay LGBTQ history project seeks physical space

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday August 16, 2023
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State Senator Dave Cortese has secured funding that could be used for a queer museum in Silicon Valley. Photo: Sen. Cortese's office
State Senator Dave Cortese has secured funding that could be used for a queer museum in Silicon Valley. Photo: Sen. Cortese's office

A virtual LGBTQ history project in Silicon Valley is looking for a physical space three years after it first debuted online. But finding a downtown San Jose location it can afford has been difficult to secure.

The Queer Silicon Valley website went live ahead of LGBTQ History Month in October 2020, as the Bay Area Reporter noted at the time. It features archival documents, personal narratives, photographs, interviews, and videos of the LGBTQ+ community in Santa Clara County as well as San Mateo County.

Gay former Santa Clara County supervisor Ken Yeager oversees the project as its director and continues to add to the online exhibition. In particular, he has been conducting interviews with LGBTQ politicians and other out leaders in the South Bay and posting features about them to the website, which can be found at

The BAYMEC Community Foundation, which Yeager oversees as its executive director, used a portion of a $60,000 grant from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to produce the website. The foundation is the nonprofit arm of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, known by its acronym BAYMEC, which Yeager co-founded nearly four decades ago on August 13, 1984.

Yeager now hopes to use $250,000 in state funding allocated to the foundation this year toward leasing a storefront for the LGBTQ archival project. His former colleague on the county board and now a state legislator, Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), had secured the fiscal support in the state budget earlier this year.

Ideally, Yeager would like to find a commercial site for lease in San Jose's Qmunity District, an area on Post Street in the city's downtown core that is where several LGBTQ bars are located. Should a space be rented for Queer Silicon Valley, it would be the fourth publicly accessible LGBTQ archival institution located in the Bay Area.

"I have been looking quite a bit for it, a brick-and-mortar space for a Queer Silicon Valley museum. The idea is to use the money we got from Senator Cortese to make that a reality," Yeager told the B.A.R. this month. "I am hoping it would be on Post Street in downtown San Jose where Splash and Mac's bars are in the Qmunity District. We haven't had any luck, and I have sort of been looking around the perimeter to find something."

In San Francisco, the GLBT Historical Society operates a small museum in the city's LGBTQ Castro district and an archival center downtown. Despite receiving $17.5 million in city and state funds in recent years toward building a larger museum space, the archival nonprofit has yet to secure a site for the project.

There is also the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center, which has a reading room and archival center located at the San Francisco Public Library's main library in the Civic Center. Inspired by the release of the "Barbie" movie, it teamed up with the library's San Francisco History Center to create a pop-up exhibit this month about one of its holdings, Gay Bob, the world's first openly gay doll who came out in 1977.

On March 31, the Louise Lawrence Transgender Archive in Vallejo reopened its doors to researchers and others a year after sustaining damage in a hit-and-run crash. As the B.A.R. had noted at the time, it purposefully coincided with the annual Transgender Day of Visibility.

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