Out at Ranger’s House

We’re celebrating the queer histories of some of the incredible objects held in the Wernher Collection at Ranger’s House.

A new tour investigates LGBTQIA+ stories from the ancient world to the present day and was researched and written by Young Producers, featuring stunning illustrations by a contemporary queer artist.

Cut out of rangers hours with selected statues and portraits popping up behind it in vivid pinks and blues

For as long as scholars have discussed the significance of historical objects and works of art, the queer stories attached to them have been overlooked or actively erased. Traces of queer connections are often fragile: communicated in code or couched in concealment out of a necessity, which has left queer narratives open to being unperceived, underplayed and overwritten. This project aims to reclaim and reveal those narratives.

The ‘Out at Ranger’s House’ Tour is a journey through a series of incredible objects. It illuminates the queer stories of the artists who made them, the people who commissioned or owned them, the figures represented within them, and their appropriation by the queer community – traversing thousands of years of LGBTQIA+ history from classical myth to modernity.

Ranger’s House in Greenwich is home to the remarkable Wernher Collection. Comprised of over 800 objects, the collection was amassed in the 19th century by wealthy diamond merchant Julius Wernher and came to Ranger’s House in 2002. The unique items that make up the collection were considered masterpieces in their own time, including medieval devotional items and glittering Renaissance jewellery, sculptures and paintings, as well as rich tapestries, prized porcelain and ornate furniture.

We often take the importance of valuable objects and artworks for granted, or are expected to understand their significance based on aesthetics alone. The ‘Out at Ranger’s House’ Tour takes a long-overdue look beyond the façade, shining a light on the queer histories that have shaped the objects we treasure.

Why do we call it 'Queer' History

The terms we use today such as – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer – are pretty recent inventions. For the most part, we don’t actually know how people in the past would have described their sexuality or gender.

This area of historical study was originally referred to as ‘gay and lesbian history’ in the 1970s, before becoming LGBTQ History; however for decades now, historians have been using ‘Queer History’ as a more inclusive umbrella term.

The word ‘queer’ can be used when talking about sexuality and gender in history. Although it has some negative associations as historically it has been used as a slur, it has started to be reclaimed as a neutral or positive term. Now it is often used to capture the complexity and fluidity of sexuality and gender, with the intention of including all experiences and identities rather than defining and limiting them. It is in that spirit of inclusivity that we use the term ‘queer’.

Katie, a researcher from Goldsmiths University, worked on this project and has written an article on researching Queer History for English Heritage – you can find Katie’s full article here.

Our favourite Queer objects from the tour

We know not everyone will make it to Ranger’s House to take the full tour, so we selected some of our favourite and most meaningful pieces to showcase here, without too many spoilers for the lucky ones who get to see them in real life!

Queen Anne as a Princess

“My interest was drawn to this painting and its surrounding story because it demonstrates LGBTQ+ relationships at the very forefront of a society that did not yet accept them, in the form of the English monarchy; it shows how queer lives and people have always been integral throughout history.”

Hannah – Young Producer

Portrait of a Young Man in a Black Doublet

“I love this painting by mannerist artist Bronzino, who was at the forefront of the classical art revival during the Renaissance. This period of time interests me as it was a time when classical ways of thinking were also being re-considered and same-sex relationships became more common and open.”

Thomas – Young Producer

Dish depicting Diana and Actaeon

“I love this item because Diana is such a strong female goddess in both Greek and Roman myth. Her character has been adopted by female social groups throughout history as an icon for female and sexual freedom. The interpretation of Diana as possibly asexual is something distinctive to other stories on this tour and highlights an aspect of her myth that is often overlooked.”

Lucy – Young Producer

Want to do the tour? Find out more about where Ranger’s House is, how to get there and how to do the tour here…

Digging deeper into Queer History

Meet the Young Producers behind 'Out at Ranger's House'

The tour has been created with the help and hard work of a group of Shout Out Loud Young Producers. They have worked with Nick, one of English Heritage’s Interpretation Assistants, to research, write and plan the tour in place at Ranger’s House. So it’s only fair that we give them a shout out here – you can read more about their experiences and discoveries in the blog section below.

Young Producers illustration of Leonie

Leonie

I’m involved with Shout Out Loud because I want to develop my knowledge of heritage policy and communication, and the project is helping me better understand the industry and build a toolkit for effecting change.

My first experience with the programme was a thought-provoking weekend in York, working with other Young Producers to come up with alternative – more inclusive – interpretation resources at an English Heritage site.

I’m a PhD researcher in History at the University of Sheffield. In my work I focus on examining emotions in seventeenth-century England, considering the role of objects and buildings in reinforcing marital love.

Young Producers illustration of Sophie

Megan S

I came across Young Producers and Shout Out Loud after writing a blog post for the 2020 Heritage Debate. After seeing the current team talk about their experiences, I knew I wanted to get involved. Museums and heritage sites were a big part of my childhood, and I’m so excited to be contributing to a sector I care so much about.

I recently finished my Master’s degree in Bioarchaeology, and am currently working in commercial archaeology, as well as volunteering my time to help represent early career archaeologists and advocating for people with learning difficulties. I’m interested in underrepresented heritage – our history is as diverse as the world we live in today, and I hope I can help to show that.

Illustration of a person on an orange background

Adrien

I’m Adrien, I’m a queer nonbinary musician and I’m due to finish my Music Production degree in 2022. I was drawn to the tour at Ranger’s House because it’s so common to see queer history overlooked, whitewashed or intentionally destroyed, and I’m proud to have been part of a team that’s helping bring these sorts of non-cisheteronormative stories and objects into the public view today.

Even though I don’t have a background in history, I felt excited to use my audio production and editing skills for such a fulfilling project, and I hope everyone visiting or taking part in the tour has a great time and learns a little more about what life was like for queer people of the past, and how they might have shown their pride before parades.

Lucy

I have been a Young Producer for Shout Out Loud since Spring 2019. I applied to be a Young Producer because I felt Shout Out Loud would have a fundamental impact in encouraging more young people to explore their heritage.

My favourite experience with the Young Producers was our group residential in York in which we collectively brainstormed the future of Shout Out Loud, worked on our teamwork and leadership skills, and met senior members of English Heritage staff. It was so lovely to meet all the other Young Producers and combine our shared interests! I am grateful to have been involved in researching for new interpretation at English Heritage properties, and most recently helping to create a tour at Ranger’s House in London.

I am a final year student at the University of Birmingham, and I am hoping to pursue a career in the heritage sector. Being a Young Producer has given me invaluable insights into the heritage sector and has allowed me to explore more creative aspects of heritage jobs outside of historical research.