The Western Australian Museum has defended its acquisition of a toilet door featuring one of the state’s historical glory holes, saying it is the museum’s responsibility to represent the entire community.
The artifact is a wooden toilet door with a hole cut through it from a train station toilet block south-east of Perth, that was used as a gay beat at a time when homosexuality was illegal.
Perth man Neil Buckley, who is part of the local activist group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, rescued the door in 1997 before the toilet block was demolished.
“I am sure this exhibit will bring back a lot of fond memories for many of the men who used beat culture as a way to meet other gay men to form a friendship, partnerships and a quickie,” he told The Perth Voice.
“Beats were an important part of gay social life and culture: they were a great place to meet, make friends and have a great anonymous sexual experience.
“Beat culture is not often talked about, but most of the gay community has done it at one time or another.
“Sadly this culture has now disappeared with the installation of automated toilet cubes and gay pick up apps like Grindr [and] Scruff.”
WA Museum chief executive Alec Coles said the toilet door was an appropriate acquisition for the museum because it was their role to reflect every aspect of society.
“Clearly the LGBTQI community is a very important part of Perth’s society,” he told PerthNow.
“We often talk about museums as safe places for unsafe ideas.
“Places you can explore topics that are maybe controversial, sometimes contentious, sometimes even confrontational, but the kind of places they can be explored in a responsible and measured way and hopefully without rancour.”
He said the door had been accepted into the Museum’s collection but it was up to curators how and when it would be exhibited.
But the state’s Shadow Culture and the Arts Minister Tony Krsticevic said the door was “too tacky” to be displayed and represented the illegal act of public sex.
“While it is appropriate for the WA Museum to chronicle the rich and proud LGBTI community as a significant element in the state’s history, such an object is too tacky for display at what will be such a great new venue,” he said.
“I’m not sure it is a suitable exhibit to be seen by school-children who will flock to the new WA Museum when it is completed.”
Buckley said he didn’t think there should be a content warning for museum patrons if the toilet door was put on display.
“It would depend on how it is presented, I would like to think we would always be sensitive,” he said.
“We are representing diverse views of many people and diverse views of people who may be offended … and we take that into account as well.”
Culture and Arts Minister David Templeman said it was the museum’s role to document and preserve the stories of the state’s diverse communities for future generations.
(Photos by Neil Buckley/Facebook)