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Smithsonian Adds 'Will and Grace' Memorabilia to Highlight LGBT History; Items Include Letter from Focus on the Family

( [email protected] ) Aug 19, 2014 01:22 PM EDT
The Smithsonian recently added a collection of LGBT historical objects to its collection, including memorabilia from the hit TV show "Will and Grace" and a letter from Christian group Focus on the Family urging the show's producers to depict those struggling with homosexuality in a more sensitive light.
The characters of ''Will and Grace''

In an unprecedented move, the Smithsonian Institution added hundreds of photographs, papers and historical objects documenting the history of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to their prestigious collection on Tuesday.

According to the Washington Times, items added to the collection displayed at the National Museum of American History include memorabilia from the hit TV show, "Will and Grace." Show creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick along with NBC will donated original scripts, casting ideas, and props, including a pill bottle and flask, a sign from "Grace Adler Interior Design" and Will Truman's framed college diploma.

Kohan said that the Smithsonian's interest in the show featuring gay characters is a "validation that we didn't even dream about when we first started doing the show." He says "Will and Grace," which first aired in 1998, was both daring and conservative, showing people their close friends could be gay.

"These particular guests that were invited into people's living rooms happened to be your gay friends," Kohan said. "I don't think people really had the opportunity to have that before, and it served to, I think, make people recognize that your close friends were gay."

"The fact that it's in the American history (museum), maybe we were a part of something that was bigger than we ever imagined," he added.

The show creators also donated a letter from Christian group Focus on the Family written in 2000 objecting to an episode making fun of reparative gay therapy, along with the show's flippant written response.

The letter, written by Mike Haley, an "ex-gay" man and Focus on the Family employee at the time, asked the show's producers to re-think their approach to homosexuality:

"As a former gay man, and now a national spokesman and expert on homosexuality and youth issues for Focus on the Family -- one of the country's largest organizations who, among other things, assists gays and lesbians who desire to be heterosexual -- I know first-hand how frustrating and painful it is to be mocked by those who haven't taken the time to find out what this process is all about."

In response, story editor Jon Kinnally wrote that "Will and Grace" writers were only interested in "creating the most comedic episode possible."

"But come on, Mike, even you've got to admit that fags trying to pretend they're straight is pretty darn funny," he added.

But according to museum curators, the donation is simply part of larger effort to document gay and lesbian history, an area that has not been well understood at the museum. Other materials displayed include items from LGBT political, sports and cultural history objects.

"There have always been gender non-conforming people in the U.S., and we've made contributions and lived life since the beginning of the country," said Curator Katherine Ott who focuses on sexuality and gender. "It's not talked about and analyzed and understood in the critical ways in which it should be. So for us to build the collection means we can more fully document the history of this country."