This week I talked with Victoria Munro the new Executive Director of the Alice Austen House Museum located on Staten Island, New York. The Alice Austen House is the only museum dedicated to the work of an individual American woman photographer and last June the National Register of Historic Places’ designation of the 2 Hylan Boulevard home which Alice Austen shared for nearly 30 years with her long-time partner Gertrude Tate to include the photographer’s significance in our LGBTQ history. Alice Austen (1866 - 1952) was one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers. She captured about 8,000 images over the course of her life and though best known for her documentary work Austen was an artist with a strong aesthetic sensibility. As a rebel who broke away from the ties of her Victorian environment she was also a landscape designer, master tennis player and the first woman on Staten Island to own a car. The Alice Austen House Museum is also in the Stonewall 50 Consortium an organization of institutions and organizations committed to producing programming, exhibitions and educational materials related to the history of the LGBTQ civil rights movement for the upcoming June 2019 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. I talked to Victoria about the direction she hopes to take the Alice Austen House Museum and her spin on our LGBTQ issues.
When asked what her personal commitment is to LGBTQ civil rights Munro stated:
I live my life here in New York with my partner Carrie and our two children and throughout my life it’s integrated into everything that I do and want for myself and others to be able to feel that we could live in an environment where we have equality and without fear. My personal commitment moving forward in this role is actually to provide a space where our histories are not presented as a changing exhibit but something permanent and part of everyone’s history. I also want to promote our museum as a space for meetings, for groups, for potential PFLAG meetings, a space where we can build on our website and other resources to share information. Because I believe that one of the most important things is how do we communicate; how do we share our knowledge; how do we share information that create support networks and how moving forward can the Alice Austen House Museum be more of a partner to our other local centers. I’ve already worked with the Staten Island Pride Center which is an incredible organization and I would like to partner with a lot of other organizations to come together and really provide a community base and an event space for groups and individuals to be able to access.
Victoria Munro is from Wellington, New Zealand and has been a resident of New York for over two decades. Munro is an artist, art and art history educator and curator who has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, including France, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. Victoria has also been the recipient of several grants and public commissions most recently receiving an Excellence in the Arts Award in 2016.