Our exhibits are always free and open to the public. We graciously ask for a suggested $5 donation or a give-what-you-can to support our ongoing mission and free access to all.

De-Coded: Surviving the Law as a Sexual Deviant

In 1961, Illinois became the first state in the US to decriminalize sodomy, one of many legal codes meant to classify homosexuals as outlaws. Crimes of sodomy, crossdressing, and even vagrancy were expressly used to target the community, making them second class citizens seemingly unworthy of protections under the law. Forced to choose between safety and authenticity, queer Chicagoans still found ways to thrive in the face of these shifting forms of oppression.

[De]Coded: Surviving the Law as a Sexual Deviant is curated by Anna Mason, Whit Sadusky, and Jess Smoot. Graphic design by Kurt Conley.

Q: Activism at the Margins of Identity

NOTE: Currently not on display – will be transitioned to new exhibit space in Spring 2023

Emerging as an outgrowth of the AIDS pandemic and the activism it brought forth, the 1990s saw a new wave of advocacy sweep through queer communities in Chicago and across the country. Political hostility, gay-for-pay media representation, and ongoing threats of physical violence pushed queer identities to the margins of society. Embracing otherness, they discovered strength in radical activism and artistic expression, transforming the concept of Queer.

““Q: Activism at the Margins of Identity” runs through April 2022 in the Sandfield Exhibit Gallery.

Lavender Women & Killer Dykes: Lesbians, Feminism, and Community in Chicago

In the 1970s and 1980s, as the women’s liberation movement was gaining momentum, lesbians worked both within and outside of the feminist movement to create a better, more inclusive world for all women. In Chicago, lesbians organized community centers, music festivals, bookstores, newsletters, publishing presses, and health centers that created spaces to benefit and centered women’s issues. While conflicts arose over what both a feminist space and a lesbian space meant (and who would be included or excluded), the vast number of spaces in this period of Chicago’s history reflects a truly diverse group of women fighting to create a better world.

The exhibit run through May 2022 in the Howard Brown waiting room.

Co-sponsored with

Comic Books

The exhibit displays comics from a span of nearly 50 years, examining three themes in particular: style and identity, AIDS, and anger. The exhibit includes work from cartoonists like Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse, as well as comics produced by government agencies and mainstream publishers. The exhibit is on display through March 2022 in the Library Reading Room.

Organization Pins

Organizations are a foundation for LGBTQ communities. A selection of local and national organization pins from political, service and performance organizations are on display. The exhibit is in the Walgreens waiting area and runs through February 2022.


Permanent Displays

The Library Reading Room has three permanent displays. One on Henry Gerber and Pearl Hart. One featuring three of LeeK’s Bubbleheads, And the third, It’s Not Against the Law, highlights the 1961 non-criminalization of sodomy in Illinois and 2013 legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois.

Exhibits in Howard Brown waiting room and Walgreens are viewable during their open hours: Mon-Thur 9 am–6 pm, Fri 9 am–5 pm, and Sat 9 am–3 pm.