On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s historic Greenwich Village, was raided by police. Resisting arrest, patrons of the bar and members of the local LGBTQ+ community decided to act up and fight back, resulting in several days of riots and protests.
To commemorate the legacy of the Stonewall Riots, considered to be a galvanizing force in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality in the United States, and around the world, we partnered with The LGBT Community Center and with support from Google to create Stonewall Forever, an immersive digital experience that features previously unheard perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community and expands access to key narratives from LGBTQ+ history.
At the center of the experience is the first “living monument” to 50 years of Pride, which users can explore through a website or augmented reality app. Users can learn about the impact of the Stonewall Riots on the past, present, and future of Pride and add their own reflection on LGBTQ+ history to the ever-growing monument.
The monument is organized around six collections of content — from “Life Before Stonewall” to “Love and Solidarity” — that visitors navigate through as they fly up the monument. Each collection features audio, video, photography, and historical ephemera that were collected and curated for the experience. This historically significant content is enhanced by reflections from visitors from all over the world, today.
Each interactive moment is represented by a glowing piece of the monument, showing that the impact of the Riots on LGBTQ+ history continues to grow and reverberate with time.
To make the monument as immersive and wide reaching as possible, we created a WebGL web experience, and a separate native AR application. The WebGL monument displays and animates over 10,000 individual shards with post processing effects, and runs smoothly at 60fps even on low-end devices. The native apps were built with Unity and AR libraries to give users the chance to explore the monument in a more tactile way. The app transports users to the middle of the park, and allows them to discover stories by exploring the monument from every angle. Even more, visitors to Christopher Park will have the unique ability to experience the monument in full AR. We used a combination of GeoLocation, AR, and custom image markers installed around the park to position the monument in a permanent, fixed location at the center of Christopher Park.
Visitors discovered the experience through a CTA on the Google homepage in 31 countries. In addition, we created a documentary film that brings together voices from over 50 years of LGBTQ+ activism to explore life before, during and after the Stonewall Riots.
Directed by Ro Haber, the film was created by a predominantly queer and trans cast and crew who are proud to be a part of preserving this legacy.
To amplify excitement around the launch of the experience, prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community contributed their stories to the monument, including journalist Derek Blasberg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, YouTube creator Tyler Oakley, singer Lance Bass and actors Trace Lysette, Cynthia Nixon, Lily Tomlin and Lena Waithe.
By remembering and documenting stories from the past, we honor the people who have fought for LGBTQ+ equality and acknowledge that their actions were not in vain. Many LGBTQ+ rights are still at risk, and we hope this project shows how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.