Not only did she donate her salary, when asked to appear on the cover Vogue (January 2012 issue), she stipulated that a group of powerful Washington women, who are all involved in getting the NWHM built and operating, be included. Who are these women? Joan Wages (President & CEO of the NWHM), Sen. Susan Collins, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, poet Maya Angelou, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and former first-daughters Barbara Bush and Patricia Nixon Cox.
That is an impressive group of women!
The NWHM currently has administrative offices in Alexandria, VA while it works towards the goal of a permanent museum site. According to the latest legislative update on their website on Sept. 8, 2011:
The NWHM bill was attached to other legislation supported by Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) and re-introduced as HR 2844, the National Women’s History Museum and Federal Facilities Consolidation and Efficiency Act of 2011. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is a cosponsor of the bill.
The legislative language in the new bill revises and further clarifies the boundaries of the site that NWHM will be allowed to purchase at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW., adjacent to the National Mall. This change eliminates any questions as to Congressional intent and will be helpful in site negotiations with the General Services Administration (GSA), the nation’s landlord.
The NWHM has a long way to go (the NWHM was founded in 1996 by Karen Straser) before they have a building on the National Mall but they certainly have the passion, drive and star power to bring this museum to fruition.
While exploring the NWHM website the following ‘general question‘ stood out:
Why “women’s history” – isn’t it all just “history?”
Women’s contributions and accomplishments for the most part have been overlooked and consequently omitted from mainstream culture. The National Women’s History Museum will help fill that void. Rather than rewriting current exhibitions at other history museums or having to decide what to omit elsewhere to “fit in” women’s history, the NWHM will serve to place women’s history along side current historical exhibitions.
Women’s history is half of our national story. The objective is to promote scholarship and expand our knowledge of American history.
Which begs the question: Are “demographic-based” museums a sign that museums aren’t all inclusive?
The following questions were posted on my Facebook wall by dear friend and fellow museum professional, Mark Sundlov:
Are [demographic-based museums] a sign that museums have not fulfilled the public-history promises to be inclusive and engaging with people of all demographics?
Do museums do their best work when they are tightly focused on a single demographic?
Does the National Museum of American History (NMAH) now have an excuse to work less diligently to include women’s history in its exhibits?
These are all fabulous questions.
There is no doubt that at one time museums were for the upper class, well to do, highly educated and directed primarily by white men.
Times have changed and continue to change in the museum field.
We talk about not only engaging but serving our communities, reaching underserved populations, increasing interactivity and user-generated content making museums “open-source.” In doing all of this, are we forgetting to “update” the content in our institutions? Do our collections policies need to change? Do our communities see themselves in or connect with our exhibitions?
Or when someone visits the NMAH and someone asks the front desk where they can find information about Frances Ellen Watkins Harper will they hear, “oh, you have to go to the National Museum of African American History and Culture or the NWHM for that.”
I don’t know the answers to all of these questions but I would love for you to share your thoughts. Let’s start a discussion.