Closeted histories

When I started working at the museum, I came across these stunning black and white photographs from the 2002 Gay Games hiding in the museum's 'closet'. These stunning photographs set off a chain of discussions which lead to raising the rainbow flag, for the first time in the museum's 28-year history.

That said, I am confident that there are a lot more rainbow maritime stories swimming around out there. We are always conducting further research into our collections and would love to find more personal experiences of the Gay Games and all aspects of rainbow life at sea but we need your help to make Mardi Gras at the museum an annual occurrence.

Flying the flag

Last week, the flag was raised by members of the museum’s rainbow community to coincide with the launch of the Mardi Gras festival and the opening of the museum’s online Sea of Rainbow exhibition.

The 3.6 metre long flag was commissioned by the museum from Flags of All Nations in Queensland and arrived to the excitement of staff and volunteers. We have been looking forward to proudly displaying our support for love and diversity high above the museum’s Darling Harbour flagpole.

Water polo players Darren Wegg, Rodd Messent, Mal McNeilly. © Paul Freeman. Reproduced courtesy of Paul Freeman.
Water polo players Darren Wegg, Rodd Messent, Mal McNeilly. © Paul Freeman. Reproduced courtesy of Paul Freeman.

Photographing (hidden) history

Along with raising the flag we’ve created Sea of Rainbow, a digital exhibition showcasing stunning black and white photographs from the Gay Games VI in 2002. The Games started in San Fran in 1982 and are organised by the LGBTQI community every four years around the themes of sports, arts & culture and an academic conference. The Games promote equality, diversity and inclusion at an international sporting level. The last Games was held in Paris during 2018 and the next will be in Hong Kong 2022.

17 years ago Sydney hosted some 11,000 athletes during the Games. Today, with the act of raising the rainbow flag, the museum has lifted the curtain on these intimate and engaging portraits which were shot to promote and document the competitors. The series was shot by Sydney photographer Paul Freeman, who is renowned for capturing nude portraits of sports stars in-situ.

One of the things I love about these images is the way the portraits capture emotion: the anticipation on swimmer Scott Cardamatis’ face before his dive, the intense energy of the waterpolo action shot of Darren Wegg, Rodd Messent and Mal MacNeilly.

Swimmer Scott Cardamatis at the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney.© Paul Freeman. Reproduced courtesy of Paul Freeman.
Swimmer Scott Cardamatis at the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney.© Paul Freeman. Reproduced courtesy of Paul Freeman.

Share your story

For 2020, we are hoping to share personal experiences of the Gay Games, and all the rainbow lives of the sea. Send your story to education@sea.museum with the subject line 'Sea of Rainbow' to take part.

Find out more

Thank-you to Karen and the team at our Vaughan Evans Library and Research Centre for the following links from Trove:

Chasna Haper

Chasna Harper

Chasna Harper is an Education Officer at the museum. She has developed and delivered curriculum-aligned programs for early years, primary, secondary and tertiary education in museums and art galleries in the UK, Japan and Australia. Chas' commitment to ensuring museums and galleries are accessible engaging spaces, coupled with her ongoing interest in ocean science and sustainability, has been the catalyst for her development of the 'Investigating Sustainability: Ocean Science and Health' program.