Why a Congressional commission wants a national women's history museum
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How many historically important women can you name? It is likely that the list is small compared to the list of notable men. That is not because there is a lack of interesting women in American history. Rather, women's history has only relatively recently begun to be explored. And the nation's museums have not yet begun to catch up. But that could change. That is, if a congressional panel has anything to do with it.
As Peggy McGlone wrote for The Washington Post, a recent report cries out against the lack of representation of American women's history. It also calls for a new national museum. That could bring the picture into balance.
The report was presented to U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney. It is the product of 18 months of work. There were meetings. People research the topic. And the public was involved. The work was done by a bipartisan commission.
Among the commission's results was strong support for a museum. It would celebrate American women's history. And it would celebrate their triumphs. The commission included a plea for public and private financial support. There was insistence that the museum be under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution. Where would it be built? The commission said it should have a place on or close to the National Mall. The mall is in Washington, D.C.
"The first step to creating a national women's history museum is complete," said Maloney in a release. "We have an achievable plan. (The) museum...will honor the experiences and contribution of women to our great nation."
But does the country have the political will to make such a museum a reality? Do they have the funds? That is a hard question. In a statement, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton told McGlone that "building a new museum is not practical now." However, he said, "we recognize our responsibility to make sure that women's history is appropriately represented in all our museums. Assuming the funding recommended in the report is available, we will hire additional curators. (They) will help tell the growing and evolving story of women in American history."
Skorton noted that a similar effort has been successful. That one is devoted to improving representation of the contributions of Latinos to American history and culture. In the 1990s, as The New York Times' Kate Taylor reported, a similar panel recommended not just a museum. The panel asked for an effort to correct an imbalance in the Smithsonian's coverage of Latino culture. Such a museum does not yet exist. The Institution has focused instead on hiring more curators. It stages Latino-centric exhibitions. It has beefed up holdings.
It took more than a century of talks and federal legislation to fund the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. It also took a lot of public and private money. The museum opened in September.
The commission's report does lay out a path to an eventual museum. It is included in a 10-year strategic plan. It recommends the creation of an initiative to lay the groundwork for such a museum. It wants Congress to donate a prominent plot of land. And it wants a campaign to raise between $150 and $180 million in private funds alone.
The American Museum of Women's History may not become a reality. But the report highlights the need for the nation at large to better document women's history. The report recommends collecting and celebrating evidence of the achievements and history of women. After all, nearly 51 percent of the American population is female. There is no lack of amazing historical women waiting to be recognized. Your list of noteworthy women may be short now. But it is about to get much longer.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is there a call for the museum to be on or near the National Mall?
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