Movement for Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Gains Steam
WASHINGTON, DC — The movement to establish a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to American women’s history is gaining steam. The bill to create a women’s history museum (HR 19), sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Ed Royce (R-CA), just passed the 150 cosponsor mark and the Smithsonian Institute is now raising funds for an American Women’s History Initiative. Under the new initiative the Smithsonian will hire new curators, survey its collection and begin to “amplify the voices of women from the past to inform the present and inspire the future.”
“I believe we’re closer now to a women’s history museum than ever before,” said Rep. Maloney. “Our bill is gaining more and more bipartisan support in Congress and with this new initiative, the Smithsonian is laying the groundwork for the collection and stories that will be told in a new museum. We’ve got to keep the momentum going and do everything we can to turn this dream into a reality. From the founding of our country, women have always been at the center of every major moment, but too often women are left out when the story of our nation is told. We need to change that. We need this new museum to preserve the full story of our past and ensure that women are empowered to strive for their full potential.”
“This museum is long overdue. Women have played a critical role throughout U.S. history, but their stories and accomplishments remain underrepresented in history books, monuments and museums,” said Rep. Royce. “I am proud to join Rep. Maloney in introducing the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, which acknowledges the incredible women who have helped build our great nation.”
The first step to create such a museum is underway, as the Smithsonian is launching a fundraising campaign for the American Women’s History Initiative. Funds will be used to recruit new curators, hire an education specialist, take on interns, survey the Smithsonian’s existing collection for relevant objects, and produce an annual symposium. It will expand the program with the recruitment of a senior curator, establish Washington-based and traveling exhibitions, development of print and digital resources, and the launch of a venture fund to finance competitive grants.
A Congressional Commission was created in 2014 to study the need for such a museum through legislation introduced by Reps. Maloney and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-7) in the House and former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate. The bipartisan American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission submitted their report to Congress in November of 2016 with its unanimous recommendation that a comprehensive women’s history museum should be established on or near the National Mall as part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The bipartisan American Museum of Women's History Congressional Commission’s report found:
- The future Museum of Women’s History should be part of the Smithsonian;
- The exhibits and collections should be inclusive and represent a diverse array of viewpoints and perspectives of women who have helped shape America;
- The museum deserves a prominent location on or very close to the National Mall;
- Private sector money should finance the construction of a world-class museum.
HR 19 Summary
- Establishes a Smithsonian national museum for the collection, study and establishment of programs covering the contributions of women to various fields throughout history;
- Establishes an advisory council consisting of 25 members appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to make recommendations concerning planning, design and construction, operations and finances, and programming for the museum;
- Directs Smithsonian to appoint a Director to manage the museum and carry out educational programs in cooperation with other Smithsonian institutions and schools;
- Instructs the Board of Regents to choose one of two locations for the museum site, both located on the National Mall and recommended by the Congressional Commission and authorizes the transfer of the chosen site to the Smithsonian Institution;
- Ensures that private funds finance the construction of the museum building, while authorizing federal funds for the planning, design, and operation of the museum by the Smithsonian.