(From L to R: Front row – Mary Boies, Maria Socorro Pesqueira, Emily Rafferty, Pat Mitchell. Back row – The Honorable Marilyn Musgrave, Kathy Wills Wright, Bridget Bush, and Jane Abraham, Commission Chair)
Bill Co-Sponsors of Legislation Establishing Commission, H.R. 3979 on December 19, 2014
From L to R: Senator Barbara Mikulski, Senator Susan Collins, Representative Marsha Blackburn, and Representative Carolyn Maloney
On December 19, 2014, Congress passed H.R. 3979, establishing a congressional commission to study the potential for an American museum of women’s history. Specifically, this Commission was tasked to independently examine the threshold question of whether the country needs a museum of this nature in our nation’s capital. If the Commission’s answer to that question was yes, they were then to present their conclusions and reasoning on the following topics:
Deciding whether or not the future Museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution;
Investigating a potential governance and organizational structure for Museum operations;
Determining the availability and cost of collections;
Identifying best practices for engaging women in the development and design of the Museum;
Calculating the impact on other regional women’s history museums;
Finding a location in Washington, D.C.;
Developing a fundraising feasibility study to support the establishment, operation and maintenance of the Museum through contributions from the private sector;
Identifying the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the Museum; and
Determining a legislative plan of action.
“It is important that this future museum be a living museum—that this museum continually changes, and that it encompasses stories from our past, and our present, and will one day tell stories from our future.”
Meet the Commissioners
This Report to the President and Congress is respectfully submitted by the members of the Congressional Commission to study the potential creation of an American Museum of Women’s History.
Report submitted November 16, 2016
To the President, Members of Congress and the American People:
The American Museum of Women’s History will tell the stories, celebrate the accomplishments, and illuminate American women’s history in ways that will inspire and inform people of all ages and all walks of life. Our history is not a piece of American history. It is American history.
The Museum will be designed to be a “Gateway,” connecting and enhancing the full spectrum of American women’s history. Along with new, exciting exhibitions — both permanent and rotating — the Museum will link, literally and figuratively, to the stories and experiences documented in history museums spread across the country. The American people enjoy world-class museums nationwide, and this museum will collaborate with them to bring the best stories and experiences to visitors.
Women now constitute 51 percent of our population. Since the 1960s, the majority of American voters have been women. More women than men now hold bachelor’s degrees. The very nature of the way women live — how their work, contributions and participation have evolved in this country — makes their history vital and distinct. Women’s stories, activities, ideas and innovations, personal and professional experiences are all integral to every aspect of our country’s history. Whether in art and design, space and spies, war and peace, or leadership and service — women have blazed a trail in every area currently documented by our great national museums. To tell the story of American women is to tell the story of America.
Women have played significant, and until now, somewhat underrepresented roles in every part of our nation’s past. Simply put, the Museum will celebrate achievement. Most Americans know of women like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks and the stories of how they led the movements for greater freedom and equality. But few can name the myriad adventurers, explorers and innovators in media, law, fine arts, sports, business, and science and technology, who happened to be women — and the Museum’s goal will be to make those women household names. The Museum will also celebrate the role of millions of nameless women who devoted their lives to the essential and evolving nature of the family and community.
The Museum will document the social, cultural and political changes that impacted women’s lives and were, in some instances, shaped and led by women. Through exhibitions and interactive presentations, live forums, events and educational programs, the Museum will both enhance and elevate the understanding of the full story of America, from its beginnings to its rapidly changing present and its dynamic future.
The Museum will build a comprehensive collection of exhibitions and experiences, one created with seriousness of purpose and intellectual honesty. To do so, the Museum will rely heavily on the expert guidance of an intellectually diverse committee of academics, curators and museum professionals. The Museum will showcase their contributions through its collaborative research center.
Pearl Bailey once said, “You must change in order to survive.” The Museum will recognize the rapidly-evolving ways in which today’s audiences are engaging with storytelling and content; in order to stay current, the Museum will continuously adapt to the newest digital technologies. The Museum will be an interactive, multi-media experience, optimizing the latest technologies to tell stories and to design spaces for live performance and programs — utilizing the most innovative means of involving and inspiring visitors for generations to come.
The Commission envisions the Museum to be a physical complex of mixed-use platforms offering opportunities for earned income as well as donations, and for multi-layered experiences for visitors. The curatorial focus will be amplified by a physical design that also reflects the unique experiences of women.
The Museum will do all of this while elevating a history of service to others and a focus on family. The Museum believes these two values — community service and family — transcend age, race, socio-economic status, religion and geography, and are deeply inspirational to people of all backgrounds. They are a key part of the story of almost every American woman, and have shaped the complex narrative not only of American women’s history but of all of American history.
The Museum cannot wait to start telling that story — to all Americans.
The Commission especially wants to thank the National Museum of Women’s History for generously funding the Commission’s work.
Thank you for your consideration of this Congressional Commission report.
Maria Socorro Pesqueira
Note: Special thanks to former Commissioner Kathy Wills Wright, who upon acceptance of a position with the federal government, was required by federal statute to resign as Commissioner on August 1, 2016.
On December 19, 2014, H.R. 3979 was passed by Congress. The bill created a congressional commission to study the potential for an American museum of women’s history. Specifically, the Commission was tasked to independently examine the threshold question of whether the country needs a museum of this nature in our nation’s capital, and if the answer is affirmative, present its conclusions and reasoning on the following:
Deciding whether or not the future Museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution;
Investigating a potential governance and organizational structure for Museum operations;
Determining the availability and cost of collections;
Identifying best practices for engaging women in the development and design of the Museum;
Calculating the impact on other regional women’s history museums;
Finding a location in Washington, D.C.;
Developing a fundraising feasibility study to support the establishment, operation and maintenance of the Museum through contributions from the private sector;
Identifying the cost of constructing, operating and maintaining the Museum; and
Determining a legislative plan of action.
Commission Conclusion and Recommendations
As the Commission draws to its formal conclusion with the presentation of this report, it is the unanimous opinion of the Commission that:
America needs and deserves a physical national museum dedicated to showcasing the historical experiences and impact of women in this country. The future Museum should be called the American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH).
Structure and Governance of the Museum
The American Museum of Women’s History should be an official part of the Smithsonian Institution. Being a part of the Smithsonian also provides the future Museum with many strategic advantages. The Smithsonian brand and reputation brings credibility to a museum. The Smithsonian gives private donors confidence that their generous support will be used wisely. The Smithsonian already has vast amounts of artifacts related to women’s history in its possession. The museums that are part of the Smithsonian Institution are among the most widely visited in the world. And for over 170 years, the Smithsonian has learned through trial and error how to present potentially controversial exhibits and topics in a fair and balanced way.
As part of the Smithsonian, the Museum’s governance structure would follow the guidelines of all Smithsonian museums via the oversight of the Board of Regents, along with the advice, assistance and support, particularly in the area of fundraising, of a dedicated museum Board of Trustees. The Smithsonian’s Board of Regents would be the ultimate governing body.
Similar to all Smithsonian museums and other leading museums in the D.C. region, the American Museum of Women’s History must be free of charge to the general public. Special exhibits may or may not require a fee.
Collections, Content and Impact
The Museum will be composed of a strong permanent collection, with supplemental exhibits or objects on loan from other museums/archives, including other components of the Smithsonian. The permanent collection will be derived from a variety of sources, including donations and acquisitions from private collections and individuals. Additionally, the AMWH will create original material to build on the permanent collection, using oral history databases, reproductions, and audio/visual technology to create distinct and multi-sensory experiences for visitors. Through use of digital multimedia tools, the Museum’s collections, exhibits, and research will reach and engage audiences across the country and around the world, encouraging future visitors to its physical site.
The goal of this Museum is to present a wide spectrum of American women’s experiences in a way that appeals to a diverse audience. Potentially controversial topics and exhibits should be presented with consideration of all ideological viewpoints, thereby allowing viewers a fuller contextual understanding of the topic, and encouraging them to draw their own conclusions. Many leading museums, presidential libraries and history centers from across the country could serve as successful models of this approach vis-à-vis interactive exhibits, displays, and interactive/decision theaters that allow for audience participation and opinion formulation.
Former POW’s being released in the Philippines, Ruth Bradley is waving. She was an Army nurse, serving in World War II and Korea, earning 34 medals and citations for bravery.
Outreach Efforts and Data Analysis
National outreach will be critical to the Museum’s success. During the development stages of the interpretive planning and design process, the AMWH should consider holding stakeholder “focus groups” across the country. These brainstorming sessions can help the development team to capture the breadth of diverse experiences and rich stories across geographical, cultural and economic strata. In addition to these “focus groups,” the Commission recommends that an AMWH Interpretive Planning and Design Team work with the AMWH to select and engage women’s history scholars who represent the history and subject matter that will inform a well-rounded story of women’s history in America.
From these scholarly groups, the Commission recommends that AMWH create an Academic Advisory Board to help vet the content of the exhibitions and to provide support for additional research and collections identification and acquisition. This group will meet quarterly throughout the development stages of the exhibition design. The group may expand to include specific content experts as the final design and exhibit narrative are developed.
Once specific plans begin to develop for the physical property, the organizing entity will make sure that leading women architects, landscape architects, builders, etc. play prominent roles in the creation of the living Museum.
According to extensive outreach already conducted by the Commission, leaders of other regional museums and archives related to women’s history from across the country unanimously agree that a national Museum would promote their efforts to reach a larger audience, rather than hinder or eclipse them. Particularly with an added research center component, the American Museum of Women’s History in Washington, D.C. will serve as a hub or gateway connecting this important constituency within a national framework.
The Commission established a list of 10 key criteria on which to evaluate potential sites. The top site criteria in priority order are as follows: potential for congressional support; location; private and potentially public funding attractiveness; visitor/tourist traffic attractiveness; and public transportation access.
The Commission’s study on potential sites is thorough and clearly articulated throughout the report. It is important to emphasize that the site evaluation, however, is based in the current time. Given that the Commission recommends a ten-year phase forward for the project, it may well be that the ultimate solution will be a site yet to be envisioned. However, the Commission’s continuing preference is a highly prominent location close to other museums, on or very close to the National Mall, and part of the Smithsonian system. The Commission also recognizes that once Congress agrees to provide public land, the final selection of a site will not be a decision made by the Commission, but instead one that will be deferred to Congress and the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents.
As a part of its extensive research, the Commission did review dozens of potential sites and then carefully evaluated and visited ten (10). At the present time, there are three examples of preferred sites for the permanent Museum that meet the Commission’s criteria and desire for a prominent location in Washington, D.C. The Commission would ask Congress and the Board of Regents to consider the following (in no particular priority order):
South Monument Site (currently an open piece of property that would essentially be the mirror site to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture),
Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, located on the northeast side of the U.S. Capitol grounds (also an open piece of property that is the mirror site to the Botanical Gardens), and
Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building, should Congress and the Smithsonian not move forward in officially designating this site within the next Congress as the future home of a Smithsonian Latino-American museum.
All three of the preferred sites have their own list of strengths and weaknesses, as outlined in the Commission’s report. As noted above, in terms of any serious consideration of the Arts and Industries Building, the Commission is sensitive to interest in the building on behalf of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and would certainly not wish to move forward should Congress deem the building to be a more suitable site for a future National Museum of the American Latino.
It is very important to emphasize that as a Smithsonian entity, the Commission understands and respects that all private-sector fundraising efforts for the future Museum should be organized and initiated officially through the Smithsonian’s Office of Advancement. This will avoid donor confusion and cross-purpose fundraising within the Smithsonian’s institution-wide development efforts.
The Commission has determined that a fundraising goal between $150-$180 million from the private sector is realistic and attainable for capital expenditures in 2016 dollars as long as the Museum is part of the Smithsonian and has a prominent location. This conclusion is based upon professional research gathered on other museum and national memorial fundraising efforts, current philanthropic giving trends, and the direct input of over 75 high net worth donors from across the country who have recently indicated a potential interest in supporting the effort.
Without public support, both the Commission and the major donor community do not think a national Museum is feasible. Therefore, the Commission recommends that:
The government provide a piece of land free of charge (or provide an existing building, renovated so it is brought up to modern structural code),
Private sector money finances the construction costs of a world-class Museum of a reasonable size (75,000 to 90,000 square feet),
Once the construction is complete and the Muse- um is open to the public, the government would take over the annual costs of operating and maintaining the Museum. Of course, like all other publicly owned museums, private sector money could/would be raised to offset/augment these operational costs.
Private Minnie Spotted-Wolf – First Native American woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.
Note: The Projected Capital and Operating Budget further outlines the funding of a future reasonably sized Museum based both on a 75,000 square foot Museum plan and a 90,000 square foot Museum plan for a new build, not an existing renovated, structure.
The Commission wishes to emphasize that the private sector fundraising goal can only be reached if the federal government donates prominent land or a building, and appropriates funds for the ongoing operations costs, as it does all other Smithsonian museums. The cost of constructing and opening the future Museum will depend largely upon the site selected and the anticipated square footage. However, with the projected size of approximately 75,000 – 90,000 square feet, private sector money should be able to build the physical Museum. The eventual size of the Museum, in terms of square footage, must be based on content needs and the amount of funds privately raised. The Commission’s goal is that the federal government will not be asked for or be required to fund the capital campaign should the Museum remain within these size limitations. A larger museum footprint, however, may require more funding from both public and private sources.
Once the two important funding source components — public and private funding — are finalized, specific budget items such as ongoing operations, collection acquisitions, programming, staffing, facility maintenance, security, and other administrative support services can be better projected. However, for the purposes of providing Congress with estimated costs, the Commission is using rough order of magnitude estimates (ROMs), per the advice of museum and real estate experts.
Prior to groundbreaking, a sound financial plan must be developed by the Smithsonian to ensure the required funding for the Museum’s capital campaign. To avoid any financial shortcomings, at least 75% of those capital campaign funds must be pledged prior to any construction. The job of raising the required funds for the Museum is too significant for one organization to tackle alone, so success will be based upon a cooperative effort. The Commission feels that to successfully raise between $150 and $180 million dollars from the private sector in today’s market will require an extensive campaign built upon significant gifts within the $20 million to $1 million range. This type of fundraising requires extensive outreach by a community of leading citizens with affluence and influence across the country who are accustomed to successfully raising these levels of gifts.
The Commission recognizes and appreciates that at present, the Smithsonian is at fundraising and managerial capacity and is not in the short term prepared to initiate the planning of a new permanent Museum—especially with significant budgetary outlays for the newly created National Museum of African American History and Culture, substantial capital expenditures for the National Air and Space Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Center, and the partial renovation of the Arts and Industries Building. That being understood, the Commission has received assurances from Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton that the Institution is aware of the need for more women’s history in its programming, and that addressing this need should be a priority both in the short term and when considering any long-term planning. Secretary Skorton, when meeting with the Commissioners on August 10, 2016, said, “I would 100% agree that we need more women’s history within the Smithsonian and I support some sort of Smithsonian program that supports your efforts with a particular emphasis on quality and scholarship.”
Therefore, rather than calling for a final Congressional decision in the near future on establishing a physical AMWH within the Smithsonian, the Commission recommends focusing on building support for this goal through a 10-year strategic plan composed of three well-defined phases based upon a detailed timeline. This strategic plan must be comprehensive, defining all parameters of the project to ensure appropriate funding, Smithsonian support, public endorsement, and Congressional action and buy-in.
The First Phase – Action Plan
The First Critical Phase of the plan would require the creation of a Smithsonian-wide initiative called the American Women’s History Initiative. The Initiative would, through a coordinated plan across the museums of the Institution, support projects in research, collections and programming to advance and underscore the contributions women have played throughout American history. The Initiative will include detailed planning, fundraising, initial traveling exhibits and public events aiming to bring this decision forward in the context of the upcoming national celebration of the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage in 2019-2020. The Com- mission asks Congress, on behalf of the Smithsonian, to approve an annual $2-million-line item in new federal funding to go toward the creation and ongoing work of the Initiative. Once the future Museum is open, the Initiative will dissolve and the work of the Smithsonian in the area of women’s history will be accomplished not only through the new permanent Museum, but throughout the other Smithsonian museums as well.
The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), a nonprofit organization led by a dedicated staff and volunteers, has been the primary organization behind the effort to build a women’s history museum in our nation’s capital. Their efforts were instrumental in securing the approval by the U.S. Congress to establish a Congressional Commission. The Commission strongly encourages NWHM to support the Smithsonian’s effort to raise private sector dollars to fund (1) the Initiative and then (2) the bricks and mortar museum. Because the Initiative and the eventual Museum will be a part of the Smithsonian, the Commission defers to the Smithsonian on the mechanics for groups such as NWHM to contribute to fundraising. However, the Commission recommends that the roles of any outside groups with respect to fundraising be clearly delineated, such as through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian.
Once the Initiative is formally established, the Smithsonian should then appoint 12 – 18 leading Americans to serve on an Advisory Council for the Initiative. Following statutory precedents, the Board of Regents will appoint all members of the Advisory Council after consultation with the Congressional Commission. The Commission would hope that the Smithsonian would invite all of the Commissioners to serve on the Advisory Council should they choose to continue. The Commission would encourage the Board of Regents to appoint a diverse Advisory Council to include: women’s history scholars/academics, corporate/foundation/high net worth individuals capable of securing large sums of financial support, celebrities, and representatives of other women’s history nonprofits from across the country. The Commission would also encourage the Smithsonian to include the chair and one independent board member of the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) selected by the NWHM Board of Directors. Private sector fundraising efforts will supplement the modest federal appropriation to provide the Initiative with adequate funding.
Once the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative is established, laying the groundwork for the eventual building of a permanent museum of women’s history within the Smithsonian family of museums, will take the collective efforts of a number of organizations (corporate, foundations, and nonprofits) and individuals to make the Museum a reality.
The Second Phase – Action Plan
The Second Critical Phase of the plan would involve Congress awarding the Smithsonian a prominent plot of land along (or in the case of the Arts and Industries an existing but renovated building) a long with the designation that the land/building will be the future home of the Smithsonian’s 21st museum, the American Museum of Women’s History. Upon the enactment of the legislation creating the Museum and offering site options, the Smithsonian will conduct a thorough feasibility study to include site, size, and cost projections. This study will ultimately determine the optimum size of the future Museum. A “soft” capital campaign would begin to raise significant funds to serve as the foundation of the capital campaign once a site is finalized.
The Third Phase – Action Plan
The Third (and final) Critical Phase of the plan would require the Smithsonian, in partnership with the private sector, to complete the capital campaign and develop and execute the actual building of the permanent Museum. The end of the Third Phase will include the completion of the building, the pre-opening festivities, and a national celebration of the opening of the Smithsonian’s American Museum of Women’s History. Open free of charge to the American people and guests from around the world, visitors will celebrate the experiences and contributions of American women to our country’s great history for many, many decades to come.
Structure and Governance
The Commission has striven to propose a structure for the future Museum’s governance that:
Recognizes the national significance of the Museum’s mission and provides a strong framework for its success and long-term sustainability.
Promotes and protects the Museum’s integrity in reflecting and exploring the wide range of experiences and perspectives of women throughout American history.
Incorporates the use of best practices in institutional stewardship, operations, and resource use to advance the goals of transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.
As with other sections of this report, the Commission’s recom- mendation on structure and governance were informed by the excellent work of prior commissions, particularly the commissions to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the National Museum of the American Latino (NMAL) respectively, which are briefly summarized below.
National Museum of the American Latino (NMAL) Report
The Commission on the National Museum of the American Latino produced extensive research analyzing the various types of organizational and governance structures available to museums, ranging from being independent to being part of the Smithsonian Institution. It recommended that: “Congress establish within the Smithsonian Institution a museum to be known as the Smithsonian American Latino Museum.”
That Commission recommended that its museum be governed within the Smithsonian’s overall Board of Regents structure, including a NMAL-specific Board of Trustees with “designated duties, powers, and authorities.” In the recommended structure, NMAL’s director would be appointed by the Smithsonian’s Secretary with approval of the Board of Trustees.
The NMAL report also recommended that its Board of Trustees be composed of 36 voting members, and to specifically include:
The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
The Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture (or equivalent position) of the Smithsonian Institution
One (1) member of the Board of Regents appointed by the Board of Regents
One (1) member designated by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus of the U.S. Congress
One (1) member designated by the Congressional Hispanic Conference
Initially, 17 individuals appointed by the Board of Regents from a list of nominees recommended by the Board of Trustees
National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) Report
NMAAHC evaluated three governance options: (1) a museum within the Smithsonian Institution; (2) an independent federal entity outside the Smithsonian Institution; and (3) a hybrid of independent and federal establishment with connections to federal agencies. Ultimately, the Commission recommended that the National Museum of African American History and Culture be placed under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution and be based on a public-private partnership of congressional appro- priations and private sector donations, with a signi cant federal investment.
The NMAAHC Commission also recommended the creation of a museum-speci c Board of Trustees with a composition similar to that of the National Museum of the American Indian with 25 voting members, to consist of:
The Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Eight individuals appointed by the Board of Regents
Sixteen individuals appointed by Congress
Board members should be individuals with strong resource-development advocacy, business, academic, and museum credentials and should represent the geographic diversity commensurate with a national museum
Four non-voting members, to consist of:
Two members of the House of Representatives, one appointed by the Minority Leader and one appointed by the Speaker of the House
Two members of the Senate, one appointed by the Majority Leader and one appointed by the Minority Leader
Board members would serve three-year terms with a two-consecutive-term limit and a one-year absence before reappointment. The Board would be divided into three cohorts with one-, two- and three-year initial terms to start the rotation of the Board. The Commission recommended that the Board of Trustees have the following standing committees: Administration and Budget, Building and Site Development (until building completion), Collections, External Affairs, Nominating, Program Planning, and Research.
Relationship of Future AMWH with the Smithsonian Institution
The Commission was asked to address the question of whether the future American Museum of Women’s History Museum should be part of the Smithsonian.
The Commission recommends that the American Museum of Women’s History be created as a physical museum, established as a component of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Commission recognizes that due to its current obliga- tions and responsibilities, the Smithsonian cannot make a de nite commitment to take on another museum at this time. Nonetheless, while the timing for establishment of the AMWH with full Smithsonian status may not be immediate, it remains the Commission’s eventual goal, for the reasons set forth below.
Virginia Apgar – American obstetrical anesthesiologist
Congress asked this Commission to consider what relationship with the Smithsonian, if any, a proposed museum should have. To that end, the Commission studied and discussed the pros and cons of the future Museum: (1) being an independent organization with no structured relationship with the Smithsonian; (2) becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate; or 3) becoming a full Smithsonian museum. The considerations in our discussion aligned with the guiding principles listed above.
First, the Commission considered potential for the AMWH to function as a fully independent organization without affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution. In speaking with a range of museum experts, directors, and fund-raisers,
the Commission heard some say that this status would maximize the flexibility of the Museum’s governing board to direct the development and operations in accordance with its own vision. However, there were numerous drawbacks to this option.
One of those drawbacks includes being completely isolated from the Smithsonian – our nation’s core set of history museums – which would suggest that women’s history either was not worth national attention or that it is already adequately addressed within the existing museums. Non-Smithsonian status would also seriously reduce the possibility of obtaining any of the prominent sites the Commission was evaluating. Additionally, fundraising would be set back since the Museum would be completely dependent on private resources. Despite the best intentions, the governing board, and thereby the Museum, might over time become identified with a too narrow a conception of American women’s history, making it highly vulnerable to criticism from opposing perspectives. Finally, a Museum separate from the Smithsonian would miss out on the economies of scale, the deep professional expertise, and the long institutional experience resident within the Smithsonian. For these reasons, the Commission believes that this is the least desirable structural option.
Next, the Commission looked at the potential for the AMWH to be an independent organization functioning within the Smithsonian Affiliate program. Our research found that the Affiliate program is an attractive option for many independent museums across the country. Primarily, it allows the Smithsonian to export some of its expertise and share its collections with affiliate museums across the rest of the country.
Six Howard University students watch a football game, 1920s Washington, D.C.
Despite the benefits of affiliate status, most of the Commission’s concerns with independent status remain unaddressed in this structure. When proposed to our focus groups, many expressed concern that an affiliate relationship would suggest that the American Museum of Women’s History is somehow “less-than” other full Smithsonian Museums on or near the National Mall. Because Smithsonian Affiliates do not receive a federal appropriation, many affiliates must charge admission, causing confusion due to the fact that most visitors do not understand what an Affiliate is and equate “Smithsonian” with free admittance. The focus groups unanimously opposed the American Museum of Women’s History charging admission, particularly when other museums nearby are supported with tax dollars. As one focus group observed, if the United States can have a National Zoo as part of the Smithsonian, surely it also can and should have an American Museum of Women’s History as a full Smithsonian component.
As the third option, the Commission assessed creating and operating the AMWH as a full part of the Smithsonian. The Commission recognizes that this status brings the drawbacks, constraints and reduced flexibility of a large bureaucracy. The Commission also recognizes it requires that official governance powers be vested in the Secretary and Board of Regents, and that the Museum’s Executive Director would be an employee of the Smithsonian. In the Commission’s view, however, the benefits of full Smithsonian membership far outweigh the drawbacks:
The creation of an American Museum of Women’s History within the Smithsonian would send a message that this subject is worthy of national attention and resources, while acknowledging that existing museums do not sufficiently present this vital part of our national experience.
The Commission determined that the existing Smithsonian governance structure, supplemented with a dedicated, thoughtfully-organized Board of Trustees, would best ensure that the American Museum of Women’s History reflects the broad range of historical experience and viewpoints of women across the country. The Smithsonian’s governance structure has stood the test of time; further, its annual federal appropriation process provides a thorough check and balance.
The Smithsonian imprimatur would provide this new Museum the credibility needed to attract significant private funds that would not otherwise be available.
The Smithsonian’s scholarly and professional expertise would give the American Museum of Women’s History the ability to create a world-class museum from the outset.
Finally, the Commission’s evaluation determined that the resolution of this Smithsonian question will significantly impact site selection, which in turn affects the likely number of Museum visitors. The Commission’s preferred sites, as a practical matter, would not be possible absent a full Smithsonian relationship. The Commission has concluded then, that these prominent sites– along with the gravitas and prestige of full Smithsonian status – best respect and showcase the role women have played, and are playing, in building this nation.
For all of these reasons, the Commission strongly and unanimously recommends the establishment of an American Museum of Women’s History as a full component museum of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Commission recognizes that the Smithsonian currently has substantial fundraising and managerial obligations (including significant budgetary outlays for the newly created National Museum of African American History and Culture, major capital expenditures for the National Air and Space Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Center, and the partial renovation of the Arts and Industries Building). In our consultations, the Smithsonian’s leaders have made clear that given these responsibilities, they cannot make a definite commitment to take on another museum at this time.
Nonetheless, while the timing may not be immediate, the Commission believes that establishment of an American Museum of Women’s History with full Smithsonian status must remain the eventual goal. Furthermore, we are pleased to report that the Commission’s consultations with the Smithsonian have led us to identify a tangible next stage of collaboration, which in our view will build a strong foundation for the future AMWH.
The Smithsonian’s Women’s History Initiative
The Commission will advocate for the Smithsonian to begin developing an American Women’s History Initiative within its existing organizational structure, with several major aspects:
Utilizing existing Smithsonian artifacts that represent women’s experiences and contributions to America to develop temporary exhibits for display in designated galleries, perhaps including “pop-ups” in the revamped Arts and Industries Building or similar spaces. These exhibits could eventually be moved – along with other objects – to the AMWH’s permanent site. The Smithsonian would identify and dedicate appropriate curatorial talent to these displays and exhibits, along with related research.
Development of a specific traveling exhibit as a national focal point to commemorate the upcoming centennial of the 19th Amendment in 2020.
Establishment of an American Women’s History Initiative Advisory Council and a Women’s History Scholars Council to advise and assist the Smithsonian in developing and implementing this initiative, and to also seek additional financial support. The Initiative Advisory Council would be composed of 12-18 individuals (predominantly women), representing a cross-section of perspectives and skills, including any interested members of the Commission, potential major donors, scholars, and others.
The Commission strongly recommends that the Smithsonian establish this initiative as described above. The Commission believes it would serve as a valuable near-term step in the development of the future AMWH, building awareness and additional support for the creation of a permanent Museum.
AMWH Board of Trustees
Once the AMWH is officially established, the Commission recommends that the Smithsonian Secretary and Board of Regents govern the AMWH with the advice, assistance and support of a dedicated Board of Trustees.
Once the AMWH is formally established as a Museum within the Smithsonian Institution, it will naturally become subject to the Smithsonian’s governance structure, including the Board of Regents and its applicable policies, procedures and legal requirements.
The Smithsonian’s policies allow and provide guidance for the establishment of a component-specific advisory council that reports to the Board of Regents through the Secretary. Currently, a number of these councils exist within current Smithsonian museums and research centers. The primary duty of each museum’s advisory council is to support and empower its respective Director with strategic advice, assistance, and fundraising to achieve the museum’s mission. The Commission recommends the creation of such an advisory council for the AMWH, to be known as the Board of Trustees, along with a non-voting Council of Scholars to serve as a resource to the Board and the Director.
1. Board Size and Composition:
The Board of Trustees should be composed of 25 voting members, constituted to advance the Museum’s mission, fundraising needs and governance goals along the following lines:
Four members of the public designated by congressional leaders: one designated by the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, one member designated by the U.S. Senate Minority Leader, one member designated by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member designated by the House Minority Leader;
Twenty-one members appointed by the Board of Regents, of whom at least 13 shall be women, to include:
A member of the Board of Regents designated by that Board
Two prominent scholars who have written about the role of women in American history
It is the Commission’s hope that many of the dedicated people who served on the American Women’s History Initiative Advisory Council would be considered for transition to the Museum’s initial Board of Trustees.
2. Terms of Service:
The terms of a member of the Board of Trustees shall consist of three years, except for the initial board.
Trustees shall serve no more than two terms.
There will be three cohorts of Trustees appointed by the Regents, with staggered terms. One-third (i.e. seven) of such members shall be appointed each year.
The initial Board of Trustees shall consist of three cohorts: one-third to have a one-year term; one-third to have a two-year term; and one-third to have a three-year term. The American Women’s History Initiative Advisory Council shall recommend individuals to the Board of Regents for the initial membership.
3. Standing Committees:
Building and Site Development (until museum construction or renovation is complete)
The Development Committee will assist in obtaining resources by making meaningful financial contributions, fundraising and/or grant-writing, subject to Smithsonian policies and procedures. The Commission notes that authority to accept gifts is vested in the Secretary and properly delegated to members of the senior staff.
The External Affairs Committee will assist staff and senior management on issues relating to marketing, communications, as well as government and community relations.
The Finance Committee shall assist the Trustees and the Board of Regents by reviewing and recommending the budgets, financial plans and financial statements of the Museum, providing input on material capital allocations and expenditures, and monitoring the integrity of the Museum’s reporting processes, internal control systems, and audit findings.
It will work with the Museum’s Director and Financial Officers to assist the Board of Regents to obtain, protect, preserve, invest and manage the Museum’s assets consistent with donor intent and restrictions, and shall conduct independent financial reviews.
It will also assist the Director and the Board of Trustees to ensure the accuracy of and file any required disclosures by the legal deadline to the applicable entities, including to the Board of Regents.
The Nominating Committee will submit to the Board of Regents the names of individuals it recommends for appointment to the AMWH’s Board of Trustees as outlined in the Museum’s charter or bylaws, subject to the requirements of the Board of Regents and any statute.
Governance and Ethics
The Governance and Ethics Committee will take steps to ensure that Trustees are aware of, fully understand and fulfill their fiduciary duties of care, loyalty and obedience to the Museum’s mission, to state and federal laws, and the requirements of the Board of Regents.
The Collections Committee shall review and advise on matters relating to the development of collections, collecting plans, accessioning, de-accessioning, and lending. It should also provide advice on the nature of the collections, as well as their maintenance and protection.
Exhibition, Education & Interpretation Committee
The Exhibition, Education & Interpretation Committee shall advise and make recommendations for the development of museum exhibits, traveling exhibits, virtual exhibits, educational programs, and the dissemination of research. It shall draw upon a combination of perspectives, including those from scholars, to ensure that a range of views is respected and that content is not skewed.
Performance & Compensation Review Committee
The Secretary has the ultimate authority to select the Museum’s Director and to appraise the Director’s performance. The Performance & Compensation Review Committee can appropriately assist the Secretary in that task by annually reviewing the Director’s performance and making recommendations to the Secretary. In conducting its review, the Committee should evaluate the Director’s performance in adhering to the Mission and Vision statements of the Museum, particularly regarding the need to represent the full range of viewpoints and experiences of American women. The Committee should also assist the Secretary to ensure that any compensation that the Museum pays to high-level employees is reasonable and not excessive, particularly by relying on comparable data. The Secretary and Board of Regents will make final decisions regarding selection and compensation.
4. Written Policies and Procedures
The Board of Trustees, at a minimum, should adopt the following:
Bylaws, subject to approval by the Board of Regents
A policy regarding conflicts of interest (real and potential) and disclosure thereof, to be signed by each Trustee and staff member annually
A policy regarding “disqualified persons,” whereby the Board of Trustees and managers will identify disqualified persons and carefully evaluate every transaction between the Museum and a disqualified person, to prohibit self-dealing transactions
A statement of values and code of ethics
A “whistleblower” policy
A mandatory record retention and destruction policy
A policy setting the length of terms, the number of terms and a procedure for removing Trustees who are unable to fulfill their responsibilities
Privacy and Confidentiality to protect people connected with the Museum (grantees, grant applicants, employees, volunteers) consistent with applicable law, Smithsonian polices and regulations, as well as the Board of Trustees’ fiduciary duty
5. American Association of Museum Standards
The Commission recommends that the Museum adhere to the National Standards & Best Practices of the American Association of Museums (AAM) and seek AAM accreditation.
See the requirements for certification of the American Alliance for Museums ↑
Research regarding the Smithsonian Affiliate program included writing to the Board Chairs and interviewing the Executive Directors at Smithsonian Affiliates around the country that are considered to exemplify the best in the Affiliate relationship. In addition, the Commission held numerous meetings with a variety of professionals within the Smithsonian to understand more about the pluses and minuses of being a Smithsonian member vs. an affiliate. Our analysis was streamlined by the “pros and cons” analysis of the various Smithsonian relationships that the Commission on the National Museum of the American Latino included in its report. See Exhibit . In addition, the Commission studied the governance structure of the Holocaust Museum as an “independent federal entity” and met with its Executive Director. ↑
Some Smithsonian Advisory Councils are denominated as Boards of Trustees and are so characterized in the NMAL and NMAAHC Commission Reports. ↑
The Commission’s intent is for the Board of Trustees to have equal representation from both major political parties at all times. In the event of a change of party control of either chamber of Congress, therefore, when a term of a congressionally-appointed Trustee is up or the position is vacated, the leader from the same party that appointed the departing Trustee should fill that slot. That is, if the House of Representatives changes control during the term of a Trustee appointed by the Speaker of the House, her successor would be appointed by the House Minority Leader rather than the Speaker of the House, or vice versa, as necessary to keep equal the number of congressionally-appointed Trustees from both major parties. ↑
Collections, Content, and Impact
Anna May Wong – Considered to be the first Chinese-American movie star
The American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH) in Washington, D.C. will be dedicated to collecting and housing the material culture of women’s lives on a scale that has never been done before. This material culture, along with other dynamic components of the museum, will present a historical narrative that offers visitors a unique and essential perspective on the American legacy. As the premier museum of women’s history in the country, the American Museum of Women’s History will shine a national spotlight on the stories that have yet to be told — stories essential to understanding the complex heritage of this country. The museum will demonstrate, through its collection and narrative approach, the richness and diversity of American women’s history, a history that will not fit into a single narrative, perspective, or experience.
This section of the report takes preliminary steps to analyze how the future collection of the AMWH should be acquired and maintained, what the content approach should be, and the potential impact AMWH will have on other regional women’s history museums. This section was created in partnership with a generous and diverse team of historians, academics, and museum professionals. Throughout the Commission’s deliberations, the Commission sought the advice and expertise of this community with particular respect to what the content and narrative approach of this museum might be.
An essential component to the Commission’s research was the Scholar Summit hosted in January 2016. Roughly 60 academics, historians and museum professionals braved a major blizzard in Washington, D.C. to discuss complex issues related to collections, content, and the symbolic importance of the American Museum of Women’s History. Following the Summit, the Commission continued to work with this community through organized scholar working groups. Each working group was composed of approximately ten individuals, and each working group submitted its own report of recommendations on a variety of topics related to this section of the report. The value of their input on these issues cannot be overstated, and the subsequent paragraphs were conceived and shaped (often directly) through their words and unique perspectives.
A. Identifying a Collection
The importance of a collection, and the process undertaken to acquire it, is a defining component of any museum and was a paramount concern for this Commission. How a collection is acquired, how it is preserved, and the context in which it is presented, defines a museum’s role and influence on its audience — as well as its identity and legitimacy in the larger cultural and heritage world.
Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick – Pioneering Parachutist
In identifying potential collections for the future American Museum of Women’s History, the Commission sought to be open-minded and thorough. The Commission’s aim was to gauge the general types of items that could be found in communities across the country, as well as their availability to be eventually loaned or donated to a central, national museum in Washington, D.C. The specific scope of the final collection will be determined by the mission and vision of the future Museum. Thus, the data the Commission has gathered at this stage in the Museum’s development is intended to serve as an effective starting point for understanding what the primary collections of the American Museum of Women’s History should, or could, entail.
This Commission recommends that the American Museum of Women’s History house a sizable permanent collection, congruent with the scope and standards appropriate for a national museum. This permanent collection will serve as the foundation of the museum’s exhibition space, supplemented with changing exhibits, featuring items and collections on loan from other institutions.
As the core of the Museum, the permanent collection must be adaptable, reflecting evolving scholarship, technology, and audiences. The development of a strategic Collections Management Policy (CMP) will be a way to ensure this. The CMP of the American Museum of Women’s History should be in line with existing national standards and requirements for collections stewardship.
A well-developed CMP will be a solid mechanism to provide public access to the collection through inclusive and comprehensive exhibitions, public programs, and educational resources. Establishing a sustainable collecting agenda that serves the present and future needs of both the public and women’s history scholars will make certain that the Museum remains relevant for diverse communities and future generations.
Specifically, the CMP of the future American Museum of Women’s History should include a collections plan with a concrete statement on the scope of its collection, and policies on the governance and management of collections, as well as acquisition and accession, incoming and outgoing loans and resource sharing, deaccession and disposition, and long-term preservation. The Collections Management Policy should also take into account the varied types of materials the Museum may acquire.
1. Likely Materials for the Future Collection
This museum will hold a range of items, from recognizable household objects that represent everyday life, to solitary and priceless icons that uniquely demonstrate an event or a movement paramount to women’s experiences and contributions to this country.
The Commission’s various research projects, along with the reports submitted to the Commission by its scholar groups, indicated that the future collections of the American Museum of Women’s History, both permanent and temporary, would likely be composed of the following materials:
a) Documents – papers of individuals, records of organizations or entities
b) Textiles – clothing, costumes, protest banners, etc.
c) Photographic materials, including slides and negatives
d) Fine Arts – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, etc.
e) Drawings, political cartoons
f) Decorative Arts
g) Posters and other graphic material
h) Books, pamphlets and other printed material
i) Ephemera: playbills, tickets, invitations, buttons, etc.
k) Digital materials and records
m) Oral histories – audio, video, transcriptions and project records
2. Collection Sources
The Commission conducted several research projects to gauge the availability of a collection for a future American Museum of Women’s History. Outreach for this endeavor was far-reaching, and included engagement with museum directors, curators, scholars, collectors, archivists and private individuals from across the country. Data was received primarily through interviews, focus groups, and online questionnaires and surveys.
Clipper building ship in WWII
The collections of the American Museum of Women’s History (both permanent and temporary) will be derived from a variety of sources: other heritage institutions, private collections, and individuals; from galleries, major archives, and national parks; and from small town historical societies and family attics. This variety will lend itself to the creation of a dynamic and diverse collection, one that will tell the story of American women on both a large, national scale, as well as a personal and individual one.
Existing Institutions: Museums, Archives, and Private Collections
Since women constitute half of the nation’s population, American women’s history exists virtually everywhere, in almost every current museum or archive — even if it is not often recognized or interpreted as such. Indeed, the sheer amount of historical material the Commission discovered in existing institutions that could be used to tell the story of American women was staggering. Some of this material exists in institutions that explicitly identify with the field of women’s history, but much of it exists in those that do not. The Commission’s research emphasized the fact that while items relating to women’s history are plentiful, nowhere in the country is American women’s history centralized, or told in an all-encompassing way.
A huge amount of historical material already exists in the collections of government institutions like the Smithsonian, National Archives, Library of Congress, and the National Park Service (although much of it is in storage). If the American Museum of Women’s History becomes an official part of the Smithsonian, as is recommended by this Commission, a key benefit will be access to these vast collections and archives.
Loaning Policy Research
There are additional existing museums, archives, and collections across the country dedicated to explicitly conserving and honoring American women’s history. One of the Commission’s first major tasks was to reach out to these significant institutions, as they could be a vital source for loaned or donated items. The Commission developed and distributed a questionnaire to the directors and curators of these major women’s history archives or collections (including some under the authority of the government) in March 2016. The questionnaire primarily focused on two concerns: the loaning policies of these institutions and the potential interest or willingness of these institutions to consider loaning — or even permanently donating — items to a future American Museum of Women’s History in Washington, D.C.
The institutions that participated in the questionnaire represented key establishments from across the country. They included university archives, historic houses, traditional museums, government collections, and national parks. Some of these institutions focused on a particular time period or subject within the scope of American women’s history (such as the Suffrage Movement or the First Ladies), while others focused on an individual woman’s life and work. A few of the participants were not strictly women’s history museums or collections, but possessed enough significant items in the field that their inclusion was pertinent.
One hundred percent (100%) of the 16 institutions that participated in the survey expressed willingness to loan to the future American Museum of Women’s History, as long as the AMWH met certain museum best-practice standards.
According to respondents, these standards would be based on the Museum’s:
Collections Management Policy
Collections Care/Conservation Policy
Security (strong security, fire suppression systems)
Possibility of Permanently Donating Items to the American Museum of Women’s History’s Collection
Almost all respondents stated that the Museum would need to submit a completed standards facilities report that demonstrated it followed best practices before the respondent’s institution would agree to loan. In addition, 18 percent of respondents explicitly stated that they would only loan to institutions they felt were relevant in subject matter to their own, while 6 percent said they currently judge loans on a case-by-case basis and so could not give specifics on their policies. The majority of respondents definitively stated that there was no possibility of permanently donating items to another institution. However, there were several outliers (see above).
The respondents who selected ‘Maybe’ clarified their answer with the following caveats:
“We may consider the transfer of objects to the Museum which staff considers to be outside our current collecting policy.”
Would depend on the “financial requirements for the maintenance of the collection, interest in regional accessibility.”
Would depend on “the interest of the original owners and in regional accessibility.”
Only if there was a “deed of gift stipulation.”
One respondent simply said that it very rarely happens but that they would not rule it out completely.
The respondents who selected ‘Other’ clarified that while they would not donate any of their current collection permanently to the American Museum of Women’s History, they would consider making duplicates of some items that could be made available as permanent donations.
The data clearly indicate that these institutions could be a useful resource for temporary items and exhibits, but should not be relied upon to contribute to the American Museum of Women’s History’s permanent collection, except in very rare cases. Therefore, a permanent collection would need to be built from other resources.
In addition to this outreach targeting major women’s history repositories, the Commission also identified over 1,500 smaller scale museums, historical societies, and state houses across the country with items or collections that could be relevant to the AMWH. The result of the study was a discovery of diverse and intriguing items, often not explicitly labeled or recognized as women’s history, but easily connected to the subject.
Institutions on the list include:
Valley Center History Museum in Valley Center, California
Peoria Riverfront Museumin Peoria, Illinois.
The Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum in Kahului, Hawaii
Mansfield Female College Museum in Mansfield, Louisiana
World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri
African American Museum of Iowain Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Warwick Historical Society in Warwick, New York
Sunnyslope Historical Society and Museum in Phoenix, Arizona
Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham, Kentucky
The Vintage Hair Museum in French Lick, Indiana
While this list was too vast for any kind of additional outreach during the Commission’s deliberation, it should serve as a starting point and indicator of the type and variety of items that are available in the multitude of institutions across America. This list should also serve as a reminder that the crafting of the future collection of the American Museum of Women’s History must be creative, and borrow not just from the obvious museums and archives but from imaginative sources as well. A strong collection could easily be compiled from items loaned or donated from a number of these smaller institutions.
A wealth of historical material also exists among private individuals, in the form of family heirlooms, antiques, and hand-me-downs. Many of these private individuals or collectors may have already donated items to existing repositories, but there are likely still hidden collections in the private sector awaiting a proper and prominent home, ones that would very much be suitable for the American Museum of Women’s History.
The Commission’s General Outreach Survey distributed to members of the public contained a specific question designed to gauge the availability and types of items in private hands. This question also measured the interest of those individuals to donate their items specifically to the American Museum of Women’s History.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. you can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
At last count, the Commission received 275 responses from individuals indicating that they had items they would like to donate. Most of the items listed span the late 19th and 20th centuries, and typically represent daily life on a local and regional level.
The significant focus on everyday life that the future American Museum of Women’s History will likely have, especially in regard to the historical changes in women’s roles and experiences at a local level, renders these items important and well worth considering in the future.
The Commission did not have the financial resources to professionally assess any of these items individually in a way that similar Congressional museum commissions were able to do. However, these results indicate that this is likely a fruitful source of historical material, and therefore should be considered in the future, when the Museum is at a stage to take more definitive steps in creating its collection.
3. Creating Non-Traditional Collections
While the future American Museum of Women’s History will rely especially on existing repositories of historical material, the Museum will also create its own material to build its collection. With the standard resources available to a national museum, the AMWH will foster oral history projects and databases, create reproductions that encourage unique interaction with exhibits, and utilize a variety of mediums, such as audio and visual technology, to create distinct and multi-sensory experiences for visitors. In the Commission’s General Outreach Survey, over 88.24 percent of respondents expressed a desire for AMWH to include diverse interactive learning experiences in addition to traditional ways of displaying objects. This approach will also allow the museum to address topics and events where a wealth of historical material may not yet exist, which is often the case in women’s history.
Harriet Tubman – American abolitionist, humanitarian, and an armed scout and spy for the United States Army during the American Civil War. Ms. Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on America’s $20 bill.
This research is preliminary, and more exhaustive efforts will clearly need to be undertaken as the Museum moves closer to becoming a reality. With that in consideration, the results of this initial data indicate that there are a multitude of resources from which an American women’s history collection could be created and, more importantly, there is interest from collectors, other museums and individuals alike to help contribute to that collection’s creation. Note: the complete data from the General Outreach Survey appears in the outreach section of this report.
B. On Content
Through its combination of temporary exhibits and its permanent collection, the Museum will be comprehensive, innovative, and inclusive. All exhibits should emphasize the diversity of women’s experiences and how those differing experiences framed their understanding of their own roles, their interests, and relationships to their families, communities and the larger world. Exhibits should illuminate both the things that set women apart from one other while also highlighting the points of interaction, demonstrating opportunities for cooperation and moments of conflict.
The mode through which these stories are communicated to the public should be diverse as well. The exhibits of the American Museum of Women’s History will engage with audiences, young and old, in such a way as to demonstrate the power and complexity of these stories through the use of various media. Visitors will see female inventors and entrepreneurs, temperance advocates and suffrage seekers – women who gained notoriety as bootleggers and bank robbers and those who earned the nation’s respect as preachers, home economists, physicians, astronauts, athletes, artists, bankers and college presidents. They will watch footage of women who opposed war and marched for peace, and those who enlisted as WACS and WAVES and piloted planes as WASPS. They will learn about the lives and contributions of distinct barrier-breaking women, as well as the experiences of the nameless women who worked in America’s factories, fields and homesteads. The AMWH will speak of the struggles and hardships women have faced throughout history, while also telling moving and inspirational tales of courage and triumph to inspire the next generation of girls and boys.
The Commission has refrained from making a laundry list of topics that should be covered in the future museum, as the history of American women is so rich and varied that any kind of list would seem restricting rather than descriptive and useful. However, in its General Outreach Survey, the Commission did ask the public for specific subjects that they would like to see in the future museum. The top four most popular topics were:
Women Winning the Right to Vote: 83.06%
General – Women in Specific Time Periods (Women in the West, Jazz Age, Colonial Period, etc.): 82.08%
Women in Science and Technology: 81.60%
Women in Politics: 76.61%
These results could serve as an initial barometer on what potential audiences (both in-person and virtual visitors) are interested in seeing at the American Museum of Women’s History, but should not be treated as definitive.
Incorporating such diverse experiences under the umbrella category of women will be challenging, but it will be critical that this Museum recognize and respect the differences and diversity among women both in the past and present. The AMWH will necessarily turn to scholars and formally engage museum professionals with expertise in women’s history to achieve this goal.
Over the past 30 years, the study of women’s history has been transformed from a little noticed field to a well-recognized, comprehensive and growing arena, with its own journals, conferences, organizations and leaders. The wealth of knowledge and research available in this field will be a key resource for an institute of AMWH’s stature and ambition. Historians, curators, and educators working at the American Museum of Women’s History must also collaborate with historians beyond its walls — including colleagues in other humanities institutions — to create engaging content for Museum visitors. In this collaboration, the AMWH will create innovative exhibits and collections, and become a source of leadership for American women’s history research and interpretation nationwide.
Congress asked the Commission to investigate the potential impact that the American Museum of Women’s History could have on regional museums across the country. Ideally, a national museum would not displace smaller institutions but instead would enter into a partnership that is supportive rather than competitive.
C. Impact on Regional Museums
Indeed, from the Commission’s perspective, collaboration with other women’s history museums would only enhance the national collection’s impact and elevate the level of interest in American women’s history nationally. The Commission understands however, that the process to create a strong relationship between the future American Museum of Women’s History and other regional women’s history museums must be deliberate and strategic in order to be successful.
The Commission approached this issue by turning to a variety of invested communities: the directors and curators of existing women’s history museums, academics and historians working in the women’s history field, as well as general members of the public. The Commission received its feedback through one-on-one interviews, focus groups, scholar reports, and surveys.
When asked about this topic in the General Outreach Survey, more than 98% of those polled stated that they believed an American Museum of Women’s History located in Washington, D.C. would have an overall positive impact on regional women’s history museums. The general sentiment of their comments was that increased awareness of American women’s history through a national museum would only increase curiosity and enthusiasm for other women’s history institutions across the country. Many other comments, though, emphasized a need for deliberate partnerships in order to ensure that regional women’s history museums are highlighted rather than eclipsed. This overwhelming response was a useful indicator of how the general public perceives the role of an American Museum of Women’s History in comparison with regional museums – essentially, as the centralized heart of a nation-wide network and a mechanism to give a national voice to the work being done by local and regional museums.
The Commission next turned to academics and museum professionals working in the women’s history field. When the topic of impact was brought up during the Scholar Summit in January 2016, the response largely echoed the sentiments of the General Outreach Survey. There was a clear mandate from this group of academics and museum professionals that a national museum on American women’s history would be an opportunity to promote rather than hinder the ongoing scholarship, research, and education being conducted in the field of women’s history.
Following the Summit, this group of scholars further addressed this topic in the final set of recommendations they submitted to the Commission in May 2016.
“A national museum would set the pace for regional or local museums without replicating their local stories. We need an American Museum of Women’s History to tell the whole story.” (Scholar Working Group I)
“The vision for an American Museum of Women’s History and the efforts made by regional, local and other museums are not mutually exclusive but rather potentially inter-connected and mutually reinforcing. The national museum will not compete with smaller institutions but instead will enter into a dynamic partnership that can support them. A national exhibit on women’s suffrage, for example, will only encourage more foot traffic to the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York or the nearby Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality Monument in Washington, D.C.” (Scholar Working Group I)
“The need to preserve history as it is happening today is crucial as original records continue to disappear every day. The American Museum of Women’s History will have the ability to, and the responsibility for, bringing together the vast network of existing women’s history museums, and sites and archives under the umbrella of “national history.” (Scholar Working Group III)
“The national museum will spearhead the collection of material and artifacts that shed light on American women’s experiences across time and space. It will centralize the preservation of materials and information on women’s history, allowing it to serve as a resource for regional museums via loans and traveling exhibits to complement their own holdings and offerings. It will also spark interest in local women’s history sites by generating awareness of such places and helping visitors locate the stories they tell within a broader narrative.” (Scholar Working Group I)
Other input touched on how this Museum, if structured correctly, could benefit a multitude of communities, not just other women’s history museums:
“The Museum’s fundamental structures should foster an institutional culture in which scholars, wherever they are based – campuses, other museums, policy institutes and elsewhere – can contribute actively to the fulfilling of the Museum’s mission, while Museum staff should be supported in efforts to engage meaningfully with other institutions not only in/around the planning of special events or exhibits, but in the course of their everyday work.” (Scholar Working Group II)
In addition to these formal scholar reports, the Commission held one-on-one conversations with past and present directors of prominent women’s history sites and museums. These individuals represented museums and institutions from across the country, including the National Woman’s Party (formerly the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum), the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, and the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park. The Commission spoke and collaborated with additional staff from these institutions, along with leaders from the National Women’s History Project, the Maryland Women’s Heritage Center, the former Women’s Museum in Dallas (now closed), and the National Collaborative of Women’s Historic Sites. Some of these individuals also served on the Commission’s official scholar working groups, while others helped us independently with outreach. All made themselves continuously available for questions and additional input throughout the Commission’s deliberation.
There are several women’s history related museums across America. How might a national women’s history museum in Washington, D.C. impact these regional museums?
There are several women’s history related mu- seums across America. How might a national women’s history museum in Washington, D.C. impact these regional museums?
No one in these conversations was opposed to creating an American Museum of Women’s History. Instead, all were interested in the idea and wanted to help make it a reality. Indeed, one quote from a director of another women’s history museum — “A rising tide lifts all boats” — was echoed by others and became a sort of mantra during the Commission’s outreach efforts. That being said, it was emphasized again and again that strong collaboration between institutions would not necessarily happen naturally, and deliberate planning and resources (financial and otherwise) must be provided in order to make these partnerships truly successful.
Recommendation: A Research and Education Center Component
The Commission recommends that the future American Museum of Women’s History include a research and education center to serve as a centralized, national resource on American women’s history for different communities across the country.
Over the course of the Commission’s outreach with scholars and museum directors, this idea of a research center was continuously put forward as a way to ensure that the AMWH supports other institutions and individuals outside its own walls and that its exhibitions reflect up-to-date and cutting edge research and scholarship. A research center would also increase the utility of the Museum itself by expanding the resources it offers K-12 teachers, scholars, historians, organizations and members of the public.
The Commission envisions this research and education center in broad terms, acknowledging that further specifics will be determined closer to the Museum’s opening. However, the Commission does recommend a center that will centralize interdisciplinary scholarship, materials, and archives from other institutions on a scale befitting a national museum. It should include communal spaces for group learning as well as individual study, and present digitally accessible databases that feature library resources and subscriptions from relevant journals and professional organizations. The future Board of Trustees of the Museum should also consider developing fellowship and grant programs to foster scholarship and ongoing interest in the American women’s history field.
In addition to these general recommendations, the Commission would also suggest this center include an interactive ‘decision theatre’ where subjects relating to U.S. history could be discussed and debated. This component would allow for thought-provoking discussions to occur separate from exhibition space, where “What Would You Have Done?” scenarios could be posed to visitors to help them engage with complex topics and contribute to the conversation as well as formulate their own conclusions. The Commission envisions this to be similar to existing ‘decision centers’ in institutions like the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.
A research and education center grounded in a museum will lead to mutual enhancement of both the research and exhibits. Research conducted in the center should influence future exhibits, while those exhibits will help that research come alive for visitors through the use of original artifacts, 3D models, interactive displays, and other immersive experiences.
Would you want the American Museum of Women’s History to function solely as a traditional museum or would you like it to serve as a research/thought leadership center as well?
General Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
When the question of a research center was posed in the Commission’s General Outreach Survey, more than 90% of the public supported it. Comments in the survey described a potential research center as a way to link universities, organizations, historians, and the public, and as an opportunity to showcase women’s history in an additional forum other than exhibits. The Commission also asked one of the three scholar working groups to specifically address the benefits of an ideal research/education center, as they perceived it.
Some excerpts from Scholar Working Group II
“This research center will result in the American Museum of Women’s History becoming a source of leadership, innovation, and inspiration for women’s history nationwide.”
“(The research center should) serve as a place where academic and public historians collaborate, a “maker-space” that supports creative new work in women’s history projects and scholarship, digital humanities, artistic endeavors, STEM partnerships, and other innovations.”
“The AMWH collections can help new generations of researchers learn how to use artifactual as well as archival evidence, and the research that flows from that work can in turn inspire and inform exhibitions and museum programs.”
“Museum exhibitions benefit from rigorous research, aided when historians based in the academy are well-versed in the use of visual and material culture and have the opportunity to conduct research in collections.”
The testimony given by this scholar group demonstrates the benefits that a research and education center could have on multiple communities beyond the American Museum of Women’s History. It also suggests a number of ways that the center will enable the AMWH to address the rich and dynamic nature of American women’s history in ways that are multi-faceted and go beyond exhibition space.
The feedback the Commission received from the various communities on the question of the impact on regional museums indicated that there is a perceived responsibility on the part of the American Museum of Women’s History to collaborate and elevate the work being done by other women’s history museums. The Commission’s findings suggest that as long as the structure of the AMWH is consciously designed in a way to foster this collaboration, there should be no question that an American Museum of Women’s History would benefit rather than hinder other regional museums. Strong and active partnerships between a centralized national museum and regional museums would, in fact, be mutually beneficial. The innovative work being done by other individuals and institutions will help the AMWH remain a dynamic and evolving national museum, while the resources and national reach of the AMWH will help support and maintain the work being done in these regional communities. A research and learning center as described above and recommended by this Commission is a key step to ensuring the success of these partnerships.
As stated within this report, a collaborative dynamic must be structured into the “DNA” of the Museum from an early stage in order to be continuously successful. It was in this spirit that the Commission worked with other women’s history institutions and organizations throughout the compilation of this report. The Commission wanted to set a precedent for how the American Museum of Women’s History should continue to interact and collaborate with existing leaders who have already spent so much time developing, preserving, and promoting women’s history. An American Museum of Women’s History will only make their voices louder.
Collections, Content, and Impact Recap
Over the course of the past 18 months, the Commission consulted with many communities to gauge potential collection sources and materials available to the future American Museum of Women’s History. The Commission spoke with the leaders of other women’s history museums and collections, scholars from across the country, authors, private collectors, and members of the general public. The Commission’s communication with these groups led to its ultimate recommendations and findings: that the Museum should be composed of a strong permanent collection, with supplemental exhibits or objects on loan from other museums and archives. The permanent collection will be derived from a variety of sources, including the Smithsonian’s own extensive acquisitions as well as donations from private collections and individuals. Additionally, the AMWH will create original material to build on the permanent collection, utilizing oral history databases, reproductions, and audio/visual technology to create distinct and multi-sensory experiences for visitors.
This Museum will be unique in its ambition to document the full spectrum of American women’s experiences on a national scale and in a way that appeals to a diversity of audiences. This approach means that the Museum must be comprehensive, innovative, and inclusive. All exhibits, both permanent and temporary, should emphasize the diversity of women’s experiences and how that diversity framed their understanding and relationship with the rest of the world. Ongoing engagement with academics, historians, and other leaders in the field will be essential in ensuring the credibility and effectiveness of this goal. With this in mind, the Commission recommends a research and education center as a way to solidify the AMWH’s role as a ‘gateway’ or ‘hub’ connecting other regional institutions, scholars, and students within a national framework. This research and education center will not only promote the work being done by others in the field, but will be a fruitful resource for the development of AMWH’s ongoing exhibits, ensuring that the Museum is up to date with ongoing scholarship and museum methodology.
Note on additional research material:
In addition to their final reports, several members of the Commission’s scholar working groups developed three sample exhibit outlines to demonstrate to the Commissioners the type of material and content that the American Museum of Women’s History could potentially present to the public. A sample high school syllabus connected to the Museum was submitted as well. These materials should prove useful for the future Museum as it begins developing its programming and exhibition plans. These materials are available upon request.
Helen Keller – Author, political activist, and lecturer, first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree
Outreach Efforts and Data Analysis
Summary of Outreach Efforts
Women make up roughly 51% of the population. As such, they belong to virtually every community, every constituency that exists in this country. Their experiences and perspectives are as varied as the experiences and perspectives of all Americans. In recognition of this variety, it was important to the Commission to have active engagement with diverse communities of women throughout the compilation of this report. Given that it will be the heritage of women from all these different backgrounds that will be recognized and represented in the future museum, their input was vital.
The Commission hosted multiple focus groups, screenings, and meet-and-greets with women across America. The Commission created surveys and conducted interviews with women of all ages, ethnicities, professions and ideologies from cities and towns across the United States. These efforts provided the Commission with opportunities for direct engagement with members of the general public. The goal with this engagement was to better understand how specific communities would want their heritage and unique experiences represented in the American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH). It was also important to engage with those who were skeptical or uncertain about the idea of this museum — listening to their perspectives helped enrich the Commission’s understanding of the issues at stake in creating this museum, and how those issues and concerns must be addressed as the Museum develops.
Throughout this entire process, the Commissioners provided multiple outlets for various organizations and individuals to engage with. Through its web site, social media and local events, the Commission endeavored to make its work a joint effort with thousands of interested individuals from across the country. This Museum will be their triumph as much as it will be the Commission’s.
Focus Group Events
Over the course of the last year, the Commission conducted multiple informal focus groups across the country. These events were typically hosted by one or two Commissioners and focused on receiving input from specific communities — women from assorted industries and professions, and many ideologies, regions and ethnic backgrounds attended. Individuals who attended these events ranged from prominent leaders in the community to young women just entering college. Discussions were hosted in Los Angeles, New York City, Louisville, Chicago, and Washington, D.C, along with several other towns and cities.
The feedback received from these meetings was insightful and encouraging. By and large, women were excited about the idea of a centralized museum dedicated to women’s history. A pressing topic among all these groups was the importance of representing all American women. They felt that the future Museum must recognize how the historical experiences of women differed depending on a variety of factors; race, class, and ethnicity among them. The Museum should also consider, according to the focus groups, the ways women differed in ideology and perspective, and that issues that could be deemed political or controversial should be addressed in a way that considered multiple perspectives and experiences.
In general, the focus groups also agreed that this Museum should be located in Washington, D.C. As the symbolic heart of our nation’s heritage, a Washington, D.C. location would guarantee both credibility and visitors to the Museum. Several groups also emphasized the importance of having the information in the museum presented in a way that was accessible and engaging to the general public, utilizing cutting-edge technology to tell the dynamic stories of the past. The focus groups also discussed this Museum in terms of what it would mean to young girls and succeeding generations of women; that the American Museum of Women’s History must be developed with future generations in mind. The Commission also discussed the type of topics Museum visitors 10 or 20 years from now might be interested in seeing. Other comments emphasized the importance of ensuring that specific professions or livelihoods were represented: women in the arts, technology, caregivers, etc. These focus groups in general enriched the Commission’s overall understanding of different communities’ relationship to and investment in the idea of this Museum, and the theoretical and methodological challenges that must be addressed in the future as the Museum develops.
Additional Community Outreach
In addition to these focus groups, the Commission held several other outreach events. In October 2015, for example, the Commission partnered with Focus Features to host an exclusive screening of the film Suffragette. The event provided an opportunity for hundreds of attendees to learn about the Commission’s work in conjunction with outside efforts to honor and promote women’s history. Other events included informal dinners or networking affairs where various individuals, representing a range of communities, were able to learn and contribute their insight into the work of the Commission.
The Commissioners also made a concerted effort to attend outreach events coordinated or hosted by other history organizations. Doing so enabled the Commission to connect with prominent leaders in the women’s history field, and further promote its own work to those most invested in this cause. Such efforts fostered multiple collaborations and partnerships between the Commission and other groups. These collaborations enhanced the effectiveness of the final report and, if continued, can only benefit the future Museum.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Janis Joplin – American singer considered one of the premier female blues vocalist of the 60s.
Virtual Public Outreach
Despite best efforts to hold as many face-to-face events as possible, it was not feasible for the Commission to engage in-person with all of the organizations and individuals that it would have liked. To remedy this, the Commission created multiple online platforms to increase its accessibility, particularly to remote communities. The Commission wanted to ensure that any interested or curious individual who wanted to contact, or learn more about who the Commission was, was able to do so in a quick and accessible manner. The official website of the American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission launched in September 2015 (www.amwh.us), and several social media platforms (specifically, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) were created shortly afterward. The Commission’s website and corresponding social media pages are updated regularly with information on what the Commission is doing, along with frequent requests for public input.
One of the best ways the public contributed to the Commission’s work was by participating in its General Outreach Survey. At the time of this writing, close to 6,000 individuals have participated in the survey. Participants were asked comprehensive questions on key issues related to the museum, such as what topics should be covered, what factors were important in selecting a location, the different types of collections that should be included, etc. The input received through this online survey provided a helpful barometer for the general public’s feelings on topics pertinent to the AMWH’s development.
What is your age?
Genereal Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
Please identify the gender that best describes you
Genereal Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
In which region of the United States do you live?
Genereal Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
The Commission collaborated with academics, historians, and museum professionals to specifically develop the content and collections section of this report. Engagement with this community officially began in January 2016, when the Commission hosted a Scholar Summit in Washington, D.C. Sixty (60) academics, historians, and museum professionals gathered together to discuss complex issues related to collections, content, and the symbolic importance of the American Museum of Women’s History, with additional individuals participating via video conference. Following the Summit, the Commission continued to work with academics, historians, and museum professionals through organized working groups, composed of roughly 10-11 individuals each. These working groups submitted suggestions to the Commission that contributed to the ultimate recommendations in this report.
Regional Museum Engagement
In addition to collaboration with individual scholars and historians, the Commission also sought input from the leaders and staff of existing museums. The intention was to better understand the experiences and wisdom gained from similar museum projects, and to initiate dialogue with prominent and insightful museum leaders that could continue beyond the submission of the Commission’s report.
Mary Pickford – Silent Film Actress and Co-Founder of United Artists Studios
One research project focused on interviewing the founders of various museums and compiling a ‘lessons learned’ report based on their insight. Leaders who helped create and sustain museums or memorials like the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the New York Historical Society, and Mount Vernon all generously participated in the project. The Commission also put together four case studies on four different museums whose subject matter or developmental history was comparable to AMWH. These case studies provided further context to the challenges faced by museums in today’s economic and cultural market, and helped the Commission examine its own situation with a more informed and practical eye.
Additional outreach included interviewing leaders of Smithsonian Affiliates as part of the governance research. The input from these various affiliates helped the Commission determine the government structure best suited for the future American Museum of Women’s History. The Commission also had ongoing communication with the directors and/or curatorial staff of multiple museums, heritage sites, and non-profits dedicated to women’s history. Communication with these entities ranged from seeking their direct input on the development of AMWH, interviewing them with regard to their experiences with their own institutions, or collaborating with them on events/co-promotional opportunities. Organizations like the National Women’s History Project, the National Coalition for History, and the National Woman’s Party (formerly the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum) were a continual source of research and outreach support for the Commission throughout the 18 months of our deliberations.
Communications with Government Entities:
The Commission also sought the counsel and perspectives of multiple government agencies invested in the development of the AMWH and/or the heritage and architectural geography of Washington, D.C. In addition to regular meetings with Congressional sponsors, committees, and other supporters on the Hill, the Commission met and worked with the National Park Service, the National Capital Planning Commission, the Commission of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian. Engagement with these groups cumulated in a working session hosted at the National Building Museum, where members from each one of these government entities were represented. Communication with these entities helped the Commission gauge the political, financial and geographic issues associated with creating a new museum in Washington, D.C. The resources and counsel they provided were essential in creating the final report.
“We need a place to collect all of the missing stories about women’s contributions to our history.”
Girl Scouts of the USA, 1913
Over the past eighteen months, the Commission has engaged with a range of communities in an effort to create a final commission report that is thorough and representative of all those invested in the creation of an American Museum of Women’s History. The outreach efforts aimed to both promote the work of the Commission as well as solicit input from organizations and individual members of the public. The Commission hosted focus groups, screenings, dinners, and one-on-one interviews, while also creating multiple virtual outreach platforms. If an individual wanted to contact or learn more about the Commission, there were several ways to do so.
The communities the Commission engaged with were vast and diverse, representing women of different ages, ethnicities, ideologies, professions, and regions. As the population on whose heritage this museum will be based, it was important that the Commission received as much of their input as was possible. The Commission also made a point to engage and collaborate with different organizations and government entities as a way to enhance its knowledge of the work that’s already been done, as well as to better understand the current political, cultural, and fiscal landscape.
“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”
One of these organizations was the National Women’s History Museum, with which the Commission had extensive conversations and from which the Commission received extensive research. These considerable efforts were essential for not only the development of the final Commission report, but also for introducing the idea of this museum to multiple communities — and initiating an ongoing conversation that will be indispensable to the successful creation of a national museum dedicated to women’s history.
Congress charged the Commission with ascertaining potential locations for an American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH) in Washington, D.C. and its environs. The Commission selected AECOM, a global premier planning, design and environmental analysis firm, to assist in this important study. AECOM has over three decades of experience identifying appropriate sites in the Washington, D.C. area and securing approvals for important projects on and near the National Mall, including iconic museum projects, long-range plans, and site-specific designs.
The Commission first established a core set of criteria in order to evaluate potential sites. The criteria, in order of priority, are as follows:
Likelihood of Congressional Support: Congressional support and legislative approval to develop the site
Location/Prominence: Proximity to the National Mall, museums, and other public attractions
Prospective Funding: Ability of the site or building to attract and receive federal or private funding
Visitation: Ability to attract a high number of visitors via high pedestrian traffic areas
Transportation Access: Site or building access via public transportation (Metrorail, bus) and public parking
Construction Affordability: Construction, demolition, reloca- tion, and other related development costs
Space Allocation: Ability of the site or building to meet the Commission’s recommended programmatic and space alloca- tion needs (75,000-90,000 sq. feet)
Signature Architecture: Site architecture is consistent with the museum’s theme
Flexibility: Ability to adapt to changes in museum space needs over time
Size: Ability of site or building to accommodate initial and future development
The Commission then undertook the study of potential sites by identifying 25 potential properties within the Washington, D.C. area. The properties focused primarily on federal lands, including property that could utilize private development partners through a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The Commission also considered the potential to use space within existing private properties.
What factors might you consider important in selecting the site for the American Museum of Women’s History in Washington, D.C.?
General Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
After consultation with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the District of Columbia’s Office of Planning, and the Smithsonian Institution, the Commission narrowed its evaluation to 10 sites for deeper consideration. These sites are all within the city’s Monumental Core and generally within five blocks of the National Mall. The ten (10) sites that the Commission selected for further analysis were the following:
South Monument Site (14th Street & Independence Avenue)
Northwest U.S. Capitol Site (1st Street & Pennsylvania Avenue)
Arts and Industries Building
Cotton Annex Building & Site
Maryland Avenue Site
Banneker Overlook Site
DOE Forrestal Building
FBI Hoover Building
DOE Forrestal Building Cafeteria
GSA Regional Office Building
The Commissioners physically inspected all 10 properties. Research collected for these sites included property ownership, parcel or building size, and proximity to transit, as well as other characteristics.
The Commission then selected three (3) preferred sites based on its understanding of the potential of each site to support the overall anticipated mission, goals, and needs of a future museum, as well as some of the attractive characteristics of the initial 25 properties. Therefore, the Commission recommends the below three (3) sites as the most appropriate locations at the present for a museum dedicated to American women’s history due to their location, prominence, historic character, congressional support, and potential availability. They are: (A) the South Monument Site, (B) the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, and (C) the Arts and Industries Building.
Note: The Commission would like to stress, however, that these properties are based on today’s assessment. As the planning and eventual building stages of a national museum will most likely take place over a period of a decade, new sites may rise to the occasion as further investigation is completed in an ever-changing city landscape.
Jane Addams – American settlement activist/reformer, social worker, public philosopher, sociologist, author, and leader in women’s suffrage and world peace
Understanding the historic development of Washington, D.C. and the role of planning within the nation’s capital is important in determining an appropriate site for the future AMWH. The District of Columbia serves as the federal seat of government and is the physical embodiment of the nation’s values and history. From its creation, the physical manifestation of the new nation’s democratic form of government has remained largely intact; a series of plans have sought to adapt and reinforce this vision for Washington. Among the documents that have shaped the form and identity of the District are the following:
The L’Enfant Plan of 1791
Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 Plan of the City of Washington was intended to be a model for American city planning and a symbol of democracy. Tasked with laying out a new city, Pierre L’Enfant sought to create a “magnificent city, worthy of the nation, free of its colonial origins, and bold in its assertion of a new identity.” L’Enfant envisioned a city which would embody the ideals of federalism and democracy while emphasizing monumental corridors and magnificent views to and from public buildings. This original design is the source of the District’s four quadrants, scenic avenues, and overlaid grid system, as well as the symbolic locations of the U.S. Capitol, The White House, and the National Mall.
The McMillan Plan of 1902
In 1901, the Senate Park Commission, formed by the U.S. Senate, began studying Washington, D.C. and cities throughout Europe in search of ways to revitalize the national capital. The publication of the commission’s findings in 1902 became known as the McMillan Plan, and set in motion the process for highlighting L’Enfant’s original designs and emphasizing a new monumental core around an expanded National Mall. The monumentality of the Mall, as framed by national museums, is a result of this planning effort, and the AMWH should contribute to this civic space by showcasing the contributions of American women throughout the nation’s history.
The Height of Buildings Act of 1910
Washington D.C.’s Height of Buildings Act limits building height to the width of the roadway right of way plus 20 feet to a maximum of 130 feet, with an exception of 160 feet along Pennsylvania Avenue. This limitation has resulted in the unique horizontal quality of Washington. The AMWH must balance its space needs with this vertical height limit.
Extending the Legacy: Planning America’s Capital for the 21st Century
In 1997, the National Capital Planning Commission released a document that proposed to re-center the city around the Capitol Building and promoted further investment throughout the District’s neighborhoods. This long-range plan calls for additional development along the avenues radiating from this central point, and aims to eliminate redundant vehicle infrastructure and improve green spaces and livability. The AMWH has the potential to reinforce the city’s Monumental Core and increase activity along one of its key corridors.
Memorials and Museums Master Plan
The Memorials and Museums Master Plan was released in 2001 as a guide for uniting national memorials and museums with local vibrancy to create a more dynamic city. This plan also provides a directory of appropriate and available locations for museum sites or memorials, with suggestions on which sites may be more readily available. This plan guided the early stages of the site selection process for the AMWH.
Monumental Core Framework Plan
The 2009 Monumental Core Framework Plan focused on improving the areas adjacent to the National Mall by encouraging cultural attractions (such as museums), enhancing open spaces, and promoting sustainability. The future location of the AMWH within the Monumental Core must consider both the legacy and visions of the past, as well as the needs and opportunities of the future.
National Park Service (NPS) National Mall Plan
The National Mall Plan in 2010 laid out a framework for ensuring that the National Mall continues to function efficiently and flexibly as a symbol of the U.S. government and as the setting for numerous Smithsonian museums. This plan also seeks to create a common understanding of the extent and identity of the National Mall, which is described as running from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, as well as extending to the Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, and the Tidal Basin. If situated on one of the sites along or adjacent to the National Mall, the AMWH should fit sensitively within this cohesive civic space.
During the research phase, the Commission considered several other museums in the Washington, D.C. area to serve as examples of various sizes and locations. Most prominent of these were those belonging to the Smithsonian Institution museum complex along the National Mall, including the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The Commission also reviewed existing museums relevant to women’s history, such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The locations and context of these existing museums are summarized in Table 1.
National Air and Space Museum: The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was initially established in 1946 as the National Air Museum and opened in 1976. The NASM is the Smithsonian Institution’s largest and most popular museum.
National Museum of African American History and Culture: NMAAHC is the newest museum on the National Mall. Its recent construction provides insight into the development process in the current fiscal and regulatory environment.
National Museum of Natural History: This museum is one of the Smithsonian Institution’s oldest and most popular sites. It sits prominently on the Mall and receives a large number of annual visitors.
National Museum of American History: Another popular Smithsonian Institution museum on the National Mall, this facility opened in 1964 and receives large visitation numbers every year.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Opened in 1993, this museum is not part of the Smithsonian Institution, but sits to the south of the National Mall on 14th Street.
National Museum of the American Indian: This Smithsonian Institution museum opened in 2004 on the National Mall.
Newseum: This for-profit museum stands on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House. The building itself also includes a restaurant and apartments.
National Building Museum: This private museum is located several blocks north of the National Mall on F Street, and offers a large gathering and event space along with exhibition rooms.
Freer Gallery of Art: The Freer Gallery is one of the Smithsonian’s two galleries housing Asian art. It is located on the south side of the National Mall next to the Smithsonian Castle.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Sackler Gallery is the Smithsonian’s other gallery housing Asian art. It is also located on the south side of the National Mall next to the Smithsonian Castle.
National Postal Museum: The National Postal Museum houses a library research center and is one of the largest philatelic and postal history collections. The National Postal Museum is located on 2 Massachusetts Avenue across from Union Station.
Smithsonian American Art Museum: This museum is located on 8th and F Streets in the center of downtown, four blocks from the National Mall. It also houses the National Portrait Gallery.
National Museum of Women in the Arts: The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts. Founded in 1987 by a generous benefactor, it is an independent nonprofit museum located at 12 Street and New York Avenue.
International Spy Museum: The International Spy Museum is a private museum currently located on F Street in the dow town area near the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
Hirshhorn Museum: The Hirshhorn Museum is the Smithsonian Institution’s primary museum for contemporary art. It is located on the National Mall between the Arts and Industries Building and the National Air and Space Museum.
National Law Enforcement Museum (Future): The National Law Enforcement Museum is currently under construction on E Street.
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery: The National Portrait Gallery sits inside of the American Art Museum downtown.
“I urge everyone to stand up and be counted. Let’s get this museum done soon. There have been a lot of years looking at this. Now it is time for action.”
Visitor data provided by Smithsonian Institution as of August 2016
Congressional Research Service - Jacob R. Straus, Analyst on the Congress • GuideStart USA Inc.
All opening dates taken from museums’ official websites
Jewish Virtual Library
All admission fees are for general admission, adult
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire
The Smithsonian Institute combines the visitation statistics of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, since they are both housed in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
While the site selection study focused primarily on determining an appropriate location for a physical museum, potential programmatic considerations were also included. The Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center and the NMAAHC temporary exhibits offer examples of programmatic work conducted prior to establishing a permanent physical location.
The Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center was created in 1997 to encourage a more visible Latino presence within the existing organization. The Center is not currently consolidated at one physical location; instead, it works programmatically with Smithsonian museums and research centers to ensure that the contributions of the Latino community are represented in exhibits, research endeavors, and educational programs. As part of this effort, designated curatorial staff are placed within specific institutions to support this program. A similar approach could be adapted to the future AMWH to ensure that the contributions of women in history are portrayed throughout the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, research, and educational programs.
Prior to its opening in September 2016, NMAAHC had a temporary physical presence at a gallery in the National Museum of American History. This gallery offered a preview of the museum’s collection, with information included on the forthcoming permanent new museum. This method could be used for the future AMWH by creating a temporary exhibit within another museum or structure until a permanent facility is established.
Site Assessment and Evaluation
The Commission took several steps in the analysis and deliberation process that led to the proposal of three (3) potential and premium museum sites. These steps are outlined below.
“How can we empower women if we don’t even recognize them?”
Initial Site Identification (Step One)
The Commission considered a wide variety of potential sites for locating the future AMWH in Washington, D.C. and its environs. As previously mentioned, the Commission initially evaluated 25 properties for their potential suitability. The 25 properties included in this evaluation represented buildings and sites on which multiple agencies provided input. (Figure 1)
Figure 1: Map of Initial 25 Properties Considered
South Monument Site
Northwest U.S. Capitol Site
Arts and Industries Building
Cotton Annex Building & Site
Maryland Avenue Site
Banneker Overlook Site
DOE Forrestal Building
FBI Hoover Building
DOE Forrestal Building Cafeteria
GSA Regional Office Building
FAA Orville Wright Building
U.S. Postal Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Wilbur Cohen Building
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Liberty Loan Building
U.S. Department of Interior South
Corcoran Gallery of Art
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Former Webster School Site
U.S. Department of Labor
IRS Building (Portion)
Preliminary Site Evaluation (Step Two)
The Commission considered the future AMWH’s programmatic needs, as well as the constraints and opportunities of each location in order to narrow the search. The Commission eventually developed a list of ten properties that have the best potential to meet the future AMWH’s needs and attract visitors. The basic information regarding the size of the site or building; the location’s proximity to museums and transit; and the occupancy status of the site or building are represented in Table 2.
Table 2: Assessment of 10 Shortlisted Properties
Proximity to Museums
Access to Transit
1. South Monument Site (14th St. & Independence Ave.)
2 blocks from Metrorail
2. Northwest U.S. Capitol Site (1st Street & Penn. Ave.)
6 blocks from Metrorail
3. Arts & Industries Building
3 blocks from Metrorail
4. Cotton Annex Building/Site
11,300 SF 2.9 acres
2 blocks from Metrorail
5. Maryland Ave. Site
1 block from Metrorail
6. Banneker Overlook Site
1 block from Metrorail
7. DOE Forrestal Building
2 blocks from Metrorail
8. FBI Hoover Building
1 block from Metrorail
9. DOE Forrestal Cafeteria Building
2 blocks from Metrorail
10. GSA Regional Office Building
1 block from Metrorail
Figure 2: Map of 10 Shortlisted Sites
South Monument Site (14th Street & Independence Avenue): The intersection of 14th Street, SW and Independence Avenue serves as a primary gateway to the National Mall, and, as such, this site at the northwest corner of the intersection is highly visible and accessible. The 1.4-acre site on the Washington Monument grounds is open space and under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
Northwest U.S. Capitol Site (1st Street & Pennsylvania Avenue): This 5.1-acre open space on the U.S. Capitol Grounds offers the opportunity for a new, museum-specific building. The prominent site is adjacent to the National Mall and its museum complex, near Union Station, and accessible to Metrorail.
Arts and Industries Building: This historic structure of approximately 100,000 square feet under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian Institution is well situated along the National Mall in the heart of the museum complex. The future AMWH would need to adapt this National Historic Landmark to meet contemporary museum needs.
Cotton Annex Building & Site: GSA has declared the Cotton Annex building (11,300 square feet) and its associated 2.9-acre property as excess, making it available for redevelopment. The building and site, located at 12th Street SW between Independence and D Street SW, are accessible but not highly visible from the National Mall and many visitor destinations.
Maryland Avenue Site: GSA has previously declared the 0.2-acre open space parcel at the northeast corner of the intersection of 7th Street SW and Maryland Avenue as excess. This small site is located within close proximity of the National Mall and visitor destinations and is easily accessible.
Banneker Overlook Site: This 4.7-acre site, under National Park Service jurisdiction, at the terminus of 10th Street SW is removed from the National Mall and other visitor destinations. This open space is surrounded by roadways and is near new development currently under construction.
DOE Forrestal Building: Also currently occupied by the Department of Energy, this 10.4 acre site represents a long-term redevelopment opportunity that could potentially incorporate the AMWH in the future. The redevelopment of the site at 10th Street SW and Independence Avenue could re-establish the L’Enfant Plan roadway and open space network, which could create new parcels available for a potential museum.
FBI Hoover Building: The redevelopment of this 6.6 acres along Pennsylvania Avenue is currently underway through GSA’s bidding process. The redevelopment program could include space for the AMWH in the future.
DOE Forrestal Building Cafeteria: Currently occupied by the Department of Energy, the Forrestal Building Cafeteria along 10th Street SW is a low-rise building of 84,000 square feet. The structure is accessible and near the National Mall and other visitor attractions, but has limited visibility due to its low profile and location south of the Forrestal Building.
GSA Regional Office Building: This 845,000 square foot building, currently occupied by GSA, offers the potential for future redevelopment at this 4th Street SW location. Such a program could include space for the AMWH.
After the Commission developed a set of criteria to effectively evaluate potential locations for the future AMWH, it then evaluated each of the potential locations for the future AMWH against that criteria. The three best-rated locations, the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, the Arts and Industries Building, and the South Monument Site scored very highly on location prominence, visitation, and transportation access.
The Cotton Annex Building & Site (North lot) and the Maryland Avenue Site both scored moderately well on these same three criteria. Although the Banneker Overlook Site scored relatively well overall, it scored poorly on location prominence and visitation. As a result, the Commission did not advance analysis of this site. Similarly, the Commission dismissed the four lowest-scoring sites from further consideration.
Based on the criteria and the potential feasibility of the sites, the Commission selected five locations for detailed site analysis: the South Monument Site, the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, the Arts and Industries Building, the Cotton Annex Building & Site (North lot), and the Maryland Avenue Site. Ultimately, these sites were reduced to three: the South Monument Site, the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, and the Arts and Industries Building.
Detailed Site Analysis (Step Three)
The Commission examined the three preferred locations carefully to determine their relative feasibility for the future AMWH. This detailed analysis also considered the potential allocation of space within each site based on established museum practices.
The Commission developed a range of allocations of building space needed in order to establish the future AMWH. The variety of space needs suggested ranges from 75,000-90,000 square feet of space to be utilized on- and off-site. This allocation attempts to accommodate public spaces (lobby, shop, cafeteria, visitor services, etc.) and exhibit spaces (galleries, archives, temporary exhibits), both of which are accessible to visitors, entirely on site. Portions of non-publicly accessible areas, which include exhibit support (collection storage and prep space) as well as building support (offices, meeting rooms, staff facilities and operations), would be housed off-site.
A. Detailed Summary Site Analysis: South Monument Site
Location: This high-profile site is located on the National Mall at 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW and is the mirror site to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in the shadow of the Washington Monument. It is two blocks from the Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/ Silver) Metrorail station.
Availability of Appropriate Museum Space: Because the site is undeveloped open space, a build-to-suit facility is possible. The location on the Washington Monument grounds will inform the overall scale and design of the future AMWH. The location and accompanying setbacks may require substantial portions of the programming be underground in order to minimize visual impacts on the Washington Monument.
Surrounding Context: The site is within two blocks of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is also close to the National Museum of American History, and the Freer Gallery of Art. The AMWH would be viewed as part of the National Mall’s museum complex in this location.
Jurisdiction and Partnerships: The property is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Due to the potential adverse impact on the Washington Monument, it is anticipated that the NPS would likely oppose the location of the AMWH on this site. Therefore, Congressional authorization would be needed. Congressional or private funding would be required and a development partner would likely be prohibited.
Zoning: The site is unzoned.
Notes: Setback standards limit the potential development of the site.
The South Monument Site is also on the National Mall, specifically at the base of the Washington Monument on the southeast side. While this site mirrors the location of the NMAAHC on the northeast side of the Monument, it is substantially smaller because of the asymmetry of the National Mall itself. The site is highly visible from several busy streets and is readily accessible to pedestrians visiting the Washington Monument or the Holocaust Museum, which is just down 14th Street. This site (along with the NMAAHC site) was identified on the 1901 McMillian Plan as a potential site for a government building. The plot of land is 1.36 acres and is owned by the National Park Service.
The South Monument Site sits at a primary gateway to Washington and the National Mall. From points south, 14th Street is a major access point to the city, opening up at Independence Avenue. From the National Mall’s museum complex to the east, this site would serve as a pivot point from museum facilities to open space.
As the site lies south of the NMAAHC, it would extend the central museum complex west of 14th Street along Constitution Avenue. Establishing the future AMWH at the South Monument Site would restore balance to the National Mall by extending the museums in parallel across 14th Street along Independence Avenue.
In the short term, a temporary exhibit would likely need to be housed off-site at another museum, such as the National Museum of American History. This would be the same approach used by the NMAAHC prior to the building of a permanent museum.
Prominent site worthy of important museum
No existing structure; space can be built to suit, new structure reflecting women’s history
The South Monument Site is a highly prominent site at the gateway to Washington and the National Mall. The site’s visibility conveys the importance of the subject matter. Additionally, it is in line with the central museum complex of the Smithsonian Institution, also advancing the future AMWH as an important and relevant institution.
Because the South Monument Site is currently open space, the site offers the potential for a signature architectural structure that reflects women’s history. No existing structure would need retrofitting. Similarly, a new building could be designed specifically to meet the needs of the AMWH.
Setback limits would require that much of the museum be underground
Potential opposition due to historic character of site
The South Monument Site presents some challenges. The setbacks limit the extent of the potential building footprint. This is particularly noticeable with regard to setbacks from the center line of the National Mall, which substantially restricts the extent of the northern building facade.
Although the site is currently open space, a new structure would likely need to have much of its space underground in order to fit within the context of other museums along the National Mall. The height of the building would be limited, requiring excavation of the site to house facilities in multiple stories underground. Such construction is generally more expensive than above-ground construction.
The site is part of the Washington Monument grounds and a component of multiple historic properties. Numerous organizations and agencies, including the National Park Service, might oppose this site for the AMWH based on historic preservation concerns. The open space of the site is a key element of its historic character; changes brought about by the establishment of the future AMWH might, in the opinion of some, result in an adverse effect on historic properties.
The site is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.”
B. Detailed Summary Site Analysis: The Northwest U.S. Capitol Site
Location: This site is located at the northwest intersection of 1st Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, on the U.S. Capitol grounds and is the mirror site to the Botanical Gardens. The site is adjacent to the U.S. Capitol and the National Gallery of Art; the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Institution museum complex are also two blocks away and within sight. This site is approximately six blocks from Union Station and its Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC), Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and Amtrak stations.
Availability of Appropriate Museum Space: Because the site is undeveloped open space, a build-to-suit facility is possible. The location on the U.S. Capitol grounds and proximity to other structures, including the U.S. Botanical Garden, may inform the size and scale of the building. Also, I-395 runs underneath the western portion of the site, potentially limiting underground capacity.
Surrounding Context: The site lies at the foot of the U.S Capitol and is directly adjacent to the National Gallery of Art. It is also close to the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Air and Space Museum. The future AMWH would be viewed as part of the National Mall’s museum complex. The building is approximately six blocks from Union Station, which serves as a major tourist and transit hub.
Jurisdiction and Partnerships: The property is under the jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol. The U.S. Congress would need to authorize the site for this use.
Zoning: The site is unzoned.
Notes: The site is located at the foot of the U.S. Capitol but has potential constraints due to the underground roadway, adjacent buildings, and proximity to the National Mall.
Georgia O’Keefe – American Artist recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”
By placing the AMWH on the U.S. Capitol grounds, the relative proximity to this national legislative body would offer a visible thematic connection to the role and importance of women in government and would signify Congress’s recognition of the history and achievements of women in the United States.
In the short term, a temporary exhibit would likely need to be housed off-site at another museum, such as the National Museum of American History, in a situation similar to what was done by the NMAAHC.
Daisy Gatson Bates – American civil rights activist, publisher, journalist, and lecturer who played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957
Prominent site worthy of the AMWH
Thematic link to U.S. Congress
Proximity to National Mall and its museum complex
No existing structure; space can be built to suit, new structure reflecting women’s history
A museum at this site would benefit from the draw of visitors to the U.S. Capitol and to the nearby National Gallery and Smithsonian Institution museums, and would serve as a transition from the Capitol to the National Mall and its flanking museum complex.
Because the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site is currently open space, the site offers the potential for a signature architectural structure that reflects women’s history within the context of the U.S Capitol grounds and the National Mall. No existing structure would need retrofitting. A new building could be designed specifically to meet the needs of the future AMWH.
Presence of I-395 tunnel limits site area
Potential opposition due to historic character of site
The Northwest U.S. Capitol Site presents some challenges. The potential building site would likely be limited in size so as to be comparable in scale with the existing structure of the opposite U.S. Botanical Garden and the underground presence of the I-395 tunnel on the western side of the site. With regard to I-395, construction would likely be limited to the area east of the tunnel.
Although the site is currently open space, a new structure would likely need to be constructed in such a way that would fit within the context of other buildings within the U.S. Capitol grounds and along the National Mall. The mass of the building would likely be limited in order not to detract from the U.S. Capitol or the U.S. Botanical Gardens, requiring at least a portion of the structure to be underground. Such construction is generally more expensive than above-ground construction.
The site is on the U.S. Capitol grounds and is a component of multiple historic properties. Numerous organizations and agencies may likely oppose this site for the AMWH based on historic preservation concerns. The open space of the site is part of its historic character; it may be argued that changes brought about by the establishment of the future AMWH in that location might result in an adverse effect on historic properties.
Figure 13: View of Northwest U.S. Capitol Site from the East
The site is under the jurisdiction of Architect of the Capitol. Congressional authorization for the site would be required.
C. Detailed Summary Site Analysis: Arts and Industries Building
Location: The centrally located site is located within the Smithsonian Institution complex on Independence Ave at 9th Street SW. It is three blocks from the Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) and L’Enfant Plaza (Blue/Orange/ Silver/Green/Yellow) Metrorail stations.
Availability of Appropriate Museum Space: The existing building on the site provides a physical footprint and the AMWH would need to retrofit the existing building. Because the current structure features non-standard spaces, the interior layout may present design challenges and/or unique opportunities.
Surrounding Context: The site is adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle and the Hirshhorn Museum, and is within five blocks of the National Gallery of Art and all Smithsonian Institution museums. The future AMWH would be viewed as a key part of the National Mall’s museum complex. Due to its central location on the National Mall, the site is unparalleled in its visibility and prominence.
Jurisdiction and Partnerships: The building is under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian Institution; coordination with the organization would be needed. Congressional authorization (and Congressional or private funding) would be needed for AMWH to obtain use of the facility.
Zoning: This site is unzoned.
Notes:The building’s historic status and structural design present challenges to its use as a museum. As noted previously, in terms of any serious consideration of the Arts and Industries Building, the Commission is particularly sensitive to the interest in the building on behalf of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and would certainly and respectfully not wish to move forward should Congress deem the building to be a more suitable site for a future National Museum of the American Latino and therefore award our Commission colleagues this particular site. It is our understanding that various Latino groups are currently engaged in conversations with the Smithsonian’s Latino Center Initiative to create a temporary gallery in the Arts and Industries Building over the short-term to showcase Latino American exhibits.
The Arts and Industries Building, often called the “Mother of the Smithsonian,” was built in 1881 as the first exhibition building. Designed as a large open structure with abundant windows to allow light into every space, the Arts and Industries Building has been closed for twelve years and has recently undergone a $55 million renovation to replace the roof and windows and stabilize the outside masonry. The 100,000 -130,000 square foot Victorian structure is a National Historic Landmark and was considered the latest in exposition hall design in the 19th century. Intriguingly, a sculpture designed by Caspar Buber, entitled Columbia Protecting Science and Industry, was constructed above the main entrance on the north side of the building. It is the only statue of a woman that adorns any of the Smithsonian Institution buildings.
Two factory workers strike in 1909
The Arts and Industries Building is currently an underutilized building in need of improvement. In August 2016, the Smithsonian Institution announced plans to use the space for temporary exhibits. The establishment of the AMWH at this location represents an opportunity to both house a museum and breathe new life into an iconic historic building. The building’s historic role as the mother of the museums along the National Mall would emphasize the stature of the AMWH Museum. It would also help reinvigorate the adjacent Quadrangle by providing another attraction to draw visitors. Furthermore, as the Smithsonian Institution moves forward to implement its South Mall Campus Master Plan, the use of the Arts and Industries Building as a new museum would support the effort to restore and rehabilitate historic properties.
Residing within the Arts and Industries Building would place the AMWH in the line of major museum attractions in Washington. The Arts and Industries Building location would encourage visitors to enter the AMWH Museum as part of their Washington experience, similar to other high-profile museums along the National Mall.
One option for the Arts and Industries Building would be to establish a temporary exhibit of AMWH within the structure, which would help the Museum begin and indicate its future home at the site. This would effectively emphasize the long-term use of the building for the AMWH and acquaint visitors to its purpose and exhibits.
Prominent site worthy of a significant museum
Impressive structure with historic architecture
Interior space can be occupied and phased over time
Current status is vacant, and the Commission is not aware of any future definitive plans for tenancy
Note: In August 2016, the Smithsonian announced the hiring of a Director who will collaborate and develop a future plan for the Arts and Industries Building.
The Arts and Industries Building offers a preeminent location along the National Mall. With its location near the Smithsonian Institution Castle and other cultural institutions, the Arts and Industries Building would convey the importance of the AMWH. The Arts and Industries Building itself is a National Historic Landmark with a noteworthy architectural style.
The current structure has a footprint of approximately 100,000 square feet, with additional space available in the mezzanine areas. As a result, the space could be rehabilitated in phases to fit the needs and budget of the AMWH. Currently, the building has no permanent tenant; the tenancy of the AMWH within the Arts and Industries Building would offer an approach to invigorate and maintain this currently underutilized structure.
Historic elements of building may make museum-quality interior spaces and exhibitions difficult to achieve (adaption would be needed)
National Historic Landmark status of the building constrains potential changes
The Arts and Industries Building is not without complications. Currently, the heating and cooling (HVAC) system does not meet the standards of the American Association of Museums. Furthermore, its status as a National Historic Landmark means that the building cannot undergo extensive changes, including changes to its interior and HVAC system; achieving the climate control standards of the American Association of Museums may prove difficult.
As a result of the HVAC system, the future AMWH could experience challenges in offering some exhibits. For a permanent installation, the system could limit the types of exhibits. Other museums may be reluctant to loan materials due to concerns about the HVAC system. In order to address this situation, one solution would be to create a series of enclosed rooms to create targeted climate-controlled areas.
The Arts and Industries Building contains two high-ceilinged primary axes, with smaller areas extending to the corners of the building. This configuration may not accommodate museum needs in the most efficient way. Again, because the structure is a National Historic Landmark, many elements of the building must remain, potentially including its layout.
The Arts and Industries Building is under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian Institution. In order to become a tenant in the building, the future AMWH would most likely require being an official part of the Smithsonian Institution.
Site Recommendations Recap
Based on the analysis above, the Commission recommends the South Monument Site, the Northwest U.S. Capitol Site, and the Arts and Industries Building be considered as viable locations for the future AMWH. The Commission believes that at the present time these sites offer the best combination of prominence, accessibility, and feasibility.
The South Monument Site presents an adaptable open space at the gateway to Washington’s Monumental Core that would restore balance to the buildings along the National Mall. The anticipated size of the museum would allow for a context-sensitive original design.
The Northwest U.S. Capitol Site offers a prominent location on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol that would underscore the role of women in history and their advancement in government roles. The museum would act as a bridge between the Capitol and the National Mall and museum complex. A new building could be constructed to meet the specific needs of a museum.
In the heart of the National Mall, the Arts and Industries Building would transform a vacant historic structure with a 21st century museum. The reuse of the facility would also support the Smithsonian Institution’s master planning efforts and would help reinvigorate the Quadrangle. As the first museum along the National Mall, this underutilized gem is considered the “mother” of museums along the National Mall, making it a befitting location for a museum devoted to women’s history.
Each of these sites is highly visible and accessible, and would be a worthy location for telling the story of American women’s history.
“A large part of women’s history is about everyday life. Women, as we know, have been for centuries relegated to the home and to the family, and that’s so taken for granted. We don’t think that the things that they used – the skillets, pressure cookers, drying racks – are worth saving, but those things tell a story about women’s lives and experiences.”
Photo: Wilma Rudolph at finish line during track meet in Madison Square Garden, 1961, Library of Congress. Wilma Rudolph is the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field; she was considered the fastest woman in the world during the early 50s/60s
Congress asked the Commission to:
Develop a fundraising plan to support the establishment, operation and maintenance of the Museum through contributions from the public. In developing this fundraising plan, the Commission shall also consider the role, if any, of the National Women’s History Museum (a nonprofit, educational organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that was incorporated in 1996 and dedicated for the purpose of establishing a women’s history museum) in raising funds for the construction of the Museum. It shall also consider issues relating to funding the operations and maintenance of the Museum in perpetuity without reliance on appropriations of Federal funds.
– (Senate Report 113-290- National Women’s History Museum Commission Act)
The Commission contracted a well-respected and established national fundraising consulting firm, Odell, Simms and Lynch (OSL,) to create a feasibility study and fundraising plan for the future Museum. OSL (www.odellsimms.com) has a successful history of working for congressional commissions, museums, memorials, and national parks from across the country, developing and executing multimillion-dollar capital campaigns. On behalf of the American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission, OSL conducted interviews with high net worth individuals, business leaders, non-profit executives, scholars, government workers, and cultural leaders to seek their input on, and interest in, raising private funds to support a future Museum.
The Congressional Commission worked closely with OSL to investigate how, and to what degree, a museum focused on women’s history on a national scale might be financed. The Commission considered formulas such as:
100% privately funded,
A combination of private and public funds, or
100% publicly funded.
The Commission, with the counsel of OSL, concluded that a museum requiring hundreds of millions of dollars to build, operate, and maintain, is not possible without a combination of private and public money. This conclusion was also determined by the Commission’s unanimous view that a national museum of women’s history in Washington, D.C. must be built in a prominent location, alongside or near comparable museums on the National Mall. The future Museum must also be first-class in structure, size, appearance, and content. Additionally, in order to sustain its business model and remain relevant and accessible to future generations, the Museum must be free of charge to the public. Therefore, the Commission has concluded that the Museum cannot become a reality without some form of public support.
While some might find this conclusion disappointing, the Commission’s findings also left room for encouragement. The feasibility study indicated that raising $150-$180 million in private funds, which may or may not include an endowment as it depends upon the final square footage of the future Museum, is a reasonable and attainable goal in today’s philanthropic market. OSL’s firsthand knowledge of comparable projects, along with additional data gathered from capital campaigns on the National Mall and other urban centers, supports these results.
The feasibility of the Museum will depend on the future Museum securing a prominent site, recruiting influential leaders, and developing dynamic content that focuses on the diversity of the past in a context that also considers the future. In more detail, this $150-180 million figure should cover the cost of designing and constructing the building and galleries, the first year of operations and maintenance, as well as an endowment of $30 million (with an estimated square footage of 75,000). Should the square footage rise to 90,000 or more, an endowment would need to be raised at a later date. Raising this high threshold amount will be completely dependent on major multi-million dollar gifts from corporations, individuals, and foundations. Interviews with potential major donors indicated that their decisions would largely be based on the degree to which the government supports this project, especially in providing a suitable location.
Without public support, both the Commission and the major donor community do not think a national museum is feasible. Therefore, this report recommends that:
The government provide a piece of land free of charge (or provide an existing building renovated so it is brought up to modern structural code),
Private sector money finance the construction of a world-class museum and provide the first year of operating and maintenance funds,
Once the construction is complete and the Museum is open to the public, the government would take over the annual costs of operating and maintaining the Museum moving forward after the inaugural year. Of course, like all other publicly owned Smithsonian museums, private sector money would also be raised to offset/augment these operational costs via a split funding campaign.
Feasibility Study Overview
While a campaign of this magnitude is never easy, the recommendations outlined in the sections below provide an initial fundraising strategy to demonstrate how the future American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH) could raise the majority of necessary funds via private sources.
As part of the research for the study, the Commission asked OSL to explore how three prominent site options would affect fundraising for AMWH. After analyzing those scenarios, OSL developed a series of recommendations based on interviews with high net worth individuals, business leaders, nonprofit executives, government workers, and cultural leaders, coupled with historical data collected during OSL’s 40 plus years of strategic fundraising experience and knowledge of current market conditions.
The future Museum’s success depends on early support, and initial benefactors will receive special recognition opportunities. This support will be symbolically important, demonstrating to future generations the passion and respect donors had for American women’s experiences and contributions.
OSL asked the interviewees what they thought the primary focus of the Museum should be. While responses varied, all participants remarked that the Museum should focus on the history of women and not solely on contemporary women’s studies. Some individuals suggested that it would be a good idea to include international women in the Museum’s narrative as well. A number of participants also felt strongly that the Museum should discuss the different roles and influences women have had in different religions and cultures. Others suggested that the Museum should incorporate virtual interviews, similar to the Shoah Museum (www.memorialdelashoah.org). All participants agreed, however, that the Museum needs to be interactive and cutting edge, with a focus on educating school-age children.
AMWH’s fundraising success depends on a formalized relationship between the future AMWH and the Smithsonian. The Commission will request from Congress nominal seed money (outside of the funds already allotted to the Smithsonian) to allow the Smithsonian to create an American Women’s History Initiative and to fund, build, and curate an initial gallery with an inaugural exhibit in or on Smithsonian property during Phase 1 (18-24 months).
Note: The Commission estimates that an official Initiative within the Smithsonian costs $2 million to $3 million annually depending upon the number of full-time employees. As a point of reference, the Smithsonian’s Latino Center/Initiative estimates a budget of $2.775 million for FY16 and $3.132 million for FY17. The fund requirements to create and run the programmatic portions of a women’s history initiative are above and beyond the $150-$180 million estimated to build the future Museum.
While the Commission has identified several potential sites suitable for a permanent museum, Phase 1 of the project does not require a final site determination. The relationship with the Smithsonian will, however, allow the future AMWH to set up operations via an initiative and begin the fundraising strategy and foundation process with a specific focus on securing 8-figure lead gifts, even without a definite final location.
The ideal development and fundraising model for the future AMWH would replicate the countless campaigns already completed where collaboration between public and private sector organizations were established as formal partnerships. This approach, which combines the best practices for raising money, establishing reputation, and creating a public/private partnership for the Museum, has significant precedent. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as other museums and memorials, started building public awareness by utilizing gallery space in existing Smithsonian museums.
The future AMWH’s priorities during this 18-24 month Phase 1 period will be on: a) securing lead gifts and b) recruiting leadership. Efforts will be made to target top-tier prospects, identified by the Smithsonian Office of Advancement, with a capacity and propensity for AMWH’s ultimate goal. Strong leadership will also be crucial to the early success of the future AMWH.
Governance and Leadership
Once a formalized relationship with the Smithsonian has been established, Museum leadership will then need to establish a transition Advisory Council. This Council will move the effort into focusing on a more formalized recruitment of leadership, one based on the execution of a fundraising campaign.
Below is a general overview of the transition Advisory Council’s members’ roles and responsibilities with regard to fundraising:
Set an example through a financial commitment – not just through annual dues, but also through significant campaign leadership.
Attend leadership and committee meetings.
Endorse the fundraising plan.
Recruit other donors and leadership.
Assist in the identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of prospects.
Accept the assignment of scheduling prospect visits and participating on the solicitation team where appropriate.
Consult regularly with the development team.
Host briefings or meetings in home, place of business or where appropriate.
Attend and participate in special events, leadership briefings, public relations activities, etc.
Serve as a spokesperson and advocate at-large for the organization.
Once the permanent Museum is underway, the Initiative’s Advisory Council will transition into the permanent Museum’s Board of Trustees, reporting to the Board of Regents.
Strong Branding and Marketing Materials
When introducing a new fundraising campaign, it is critical that all marketing materials provide a clear and consistent message and mission. The future AMWH must develop this compelling and concise message, and utilize it in all of its fundraising and promotional material.
In addition to a strong case statement and two-page overview, the future AMWH will need to create customized cultivation materials that will gauge a specific prospect’s interest in the project and, ultimately, secure a major gift. Some examples of documents are listed below:
Letters of Intent: Mainly requested by corporate foundations and private foundations. These will be utilized as introductory pieces to gauge prospects’ interest, present a specific opportunity, and to request an in-person meeting or opportunity to submit a formal proposal.
Concept Papers: Customized documents created to provide prospects with opportunities for partnerships without giving levels attached. Usually submitted after a first meeting, concept papers are “teasers” that are crafted with the prospect’s business and philanthropic interests in mind. They outline what a partnership could look like and what benefits are available. Concept papers are meant to be “working documents” in which OSL works directly with the potential donor to fine-tune the piece into a formal proposal.
Proposals: Submitted after several meetings or conversations have taken place and when there is a clear interest expressed by the prospect. At this point, OSL will know what opportunities the prospects are interested in and what benefits they expect in return. The proposal will have a specific “ask” amount or levels of giving included.
SponsorshipOpportunities: Included in a proposal, but can also be used as stand-alone pieces to gauge prospects’ interest. Based on sponsorship opportunities available, OSL will plan to match prospects with opportunities that it believes will be of particular interest to those organizations or individuals. These pieces will be used as an introduction to secure further conversations.
A Short Video and Web-Based Segments: Designed to inform and educate the market; should be created as a part of overall marketing and communications.
Suffragist in front of White House, 1917
Diverse Campaign with Multiple Fundraising Activities
A campaign of this magnitude must include numerous avenues of giving. In addition to corporate, foundation, and high net worth community giving, the future AMWH must also raise money through social media and direct mail. Some examples of diverse fundraising activities are:
High-Level Networking: Using the already completed interviews as a baseline, AMWH will identify and evaluate new prospects and work with leadership to determine the best approach for each individual or organization.
Sponsorship/Naming Opportunities: AMWH will establish naming opportunities that will attract top prospects. Recognition benefits will be particularly important to corporations, as they will want to see a return on their investment. Whether it is through marketing or tangible items, sponsorship opportunities and recognition benefits will be customized to meet the needs of specific prospects.
Challenge Grants:AMWH will work with donors that have an interest in using their gift or pledge as a challenge to others. Not only does this help leverage additional funds, but it also provides the donor with recognition for the total amount raised through their challenge. AMWH will target prospects that have a history of making challenge grants and will encourage other donors to make challenge grants as well.
Peer-to-Peer Asks: Prospects are more likely to give to a project when they personally know someone involved. AMWH will capitalize on the relationships with top prospects that the Commission and the new Museum/transition board members have by crafting peer-to-peer asks.
Letter Campaigns: AMWH will conduct letter campaigns in the name of specific board members in order to make personalized introductions to key prospects. Given that an introductory letter can easily be duplicated, this strategy is most effective when reaching out to several contacts.
Cultivation Events: AMWH will engage priority prospects by setting up cultivation events. These events will help potential donors get to know the organization and enable OSL to make deeper connections with them. A commissioner, board member, or fundraising committee member should host most of these events with 12-15 potential donors present.
Direct Mail: A direct mail membership program will build awareness of the Museum and attract many low-dollar contributions. These donors will not be a priority for the building campaign, but it is an important investment for cultivating wide-range support and attracting attendees.
Social Media: AMWH will test social media as a source of fundraising. Social media fundraising is the next big frontier as is proven through other recently successful campaigns.
The Commission, with OSL’s counsel, anticipates that, of the $150-$180 million in private funds needed, approximately 62%will come from private individuals, 30% will come from foundations and corporations, and broad-based direct marketing and social media sources will secure the last 8%.
“I have worked on this idea for over a decade. I’ve always felt that when young girls come to Washington D.C., and young boys for that matter, that they would get a far more complete understanding of America’s history if there was a women’s history museum. ”
The American Museum of Women’s History Capital Campaign Approach
Based on the information and data collected from the market assessment, overwhelming support from interviewees, and the general societal demand for a museum uniquely focused on women’s history, the Commission projects a goal of $150-$180 million as realistic and attainable. OSL’s experience in conducting other campaigns of similar size and scope also verifies these results. The projected timetables for the options listed above spans 4-10 years. The success of any of these options is dependent upon congressional support, in a situation in which the public and private sectors work together to not only raise funds, but to execute a high-profile marketing and communications campaign.
Our final assessment is based on a number of factors, including the following:
1. OSL has decades of experience working on campaigns with fundraising goals of $100 to $300 million or more. They based part of their recommendations on past campaigns with locations on, off, or near the National Mall as verification for this campaign’s goal. These other projects include: the National WWII Museum, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. OSL has also raised $120 million for the National Museum of the American Civil War at Gettysburg, in cooperation with the National Park Service. These successful campaigns demonstrate that OSL clearly understands the dynamics of working with the government. The expertise gained through these experiences will be an important factor throughout in persuading members of Congress that OSL and the teams affiliated with the AMWH Congressional Commission have the ability and track record to complete a major campaign on this scale.
“I think it is one of the most fortunate things in my life that I have come in contact with this movement to win freedom for all the women of the United States.”
2. Based on interviews with potential major prospects, along with OSL’s master file of qualified, major-donor prospects who have the capacity to fund a campaign of this magnitude, the Commission and OSL suggest an initial fundraising goal pyramid as follows:
Fundraising Goal Pyramid
Two (2) donors at $20 million
Two (2) donors at $10 million
Ten (10) donors at $5 million
Twenty-five (25) donors at $ 1 million
Twenty-five (25) donors at $500,000
Fifty (50) donors at $100,000
250 gifts at $25,000 to $50,000 (using $37,500 as average)
500 gifts at $10,000
Gifts under $10,000, Direct Mail and Digital Media campaigns
Note: The above-mentioned goals, the Commission feels, are further validated when considering the success of the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. On September 23, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture took out a full-page ad in The New York Times thanking their founding donors for their support over the past decade. They specifically listed: three $20 million donors, five $10 million donors, sixty-two $5 million donors, twenty-three $2 million donors and forty-six $1 million donors – for a total private sector contribution of $512 million. This fundraising success was largely dependent on initial support from the Smithsonian, beginning in 1989, which led to a highly engaged national advocacy campaign, celebrity representation, and steady support from the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. Therefore, the Commission felt more comfortable with a reasonable and “doable” goal of $180 million.
Fundraising Role of the National Women’s History Museum
To date, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), a nonprofit organization led by dedicated staff and volunteers, has been the primary organization behind the effort to build a women’s history museum in our nation’s capital. Their efforts
were instrumental in securing the approval by the U.S. Congress to establish a Congressional Commission. Because federal funding was not allocated to the Commission (unlike the Commissions on the National Museum of the American Latino and the National Museum of African American History and Culture), NWHM also committed the necessary operating funds to produce the Commission’s report to the President and Congress. The Commission could not have performed its work without NWHM’s $809,098 grant, and again thanks NWHM for its contribution to the Commission and to the national women’s history museum effort in general.
The job of raising the required funds for the Museum is too significant for one organization to tackle alone, so success will require a cooperative effort. The Commission feels that to successfully raise between $150 and $180 million dollars from the private sector in today’s market will require an extensive campaign built upon significant gifts within the $1 million to $20 million range. This type of fundraising requires extensive outreach by a community of leading citizens with affluence and influence across the country who are accustomed to successfully securing gifts that represent the highest level of philanthropic giving in America.
As the Commission looks to the establishment of a Smithsonian Women’s History Initiative, thereby laying the groundwork for the eventual building of a permanent museum of women’s history within the Smithsonian family of museums, it will take the collective efforts of a number of organizations (corporate, foundations, and nonprofits) and individuals to make the museum a reality. NWHM should be part of that effort to raise private sector dollars to fund (1) the Initiative and then (2) the bricks and mortar museum. Because the Initiative, (and, the Commission hopes, the eventual museum) will be a part of the Smithsonian, the Commission defers to the Smithsonian on the mechanics for groups such as NWHM to contribute to fundraising. However, the Commission recommends that the roles of any outside groups with respect to fundraising be clearly delineated, such as through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Smithsonian.
NWHM’s real strength is in lower donor levels through grass roots outreach. The Commission notes that NWHM has also recently contracted several fundraising consultants that are well-regarded within the nonprofit fundraising arena.
In addition, NWHM’s 20 years of knowledge and experience in creating online and classroom educational material on women’s history could benefit the future Museum. Therefore, the Commission recommends NWHM consider continuing the effort to build a national museum by encouraging its large social media following (over 400,000 Facebook followers to-date) to donate to the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative, and the Commission further recommends the Smithsonian formalize their assistance through an MOU. Beyond financially sponsoring initiative programs and exhibits, NWHM could also lend its support by making available to the Smithsonian its extensive archives of virtual exhibits, in addition to continuing to raise awareness of the need for a permanent women’s history museum in Washington, D.C. The future Museum will succeed only if the many interested and dedicated partners in this field work in a collaborative and multi-faceted effort.
“The Museum will not only show us how women made history, it will also teach us how women can make progress.”
The campaign to raise funding and support for the future American Museum of Women’s History will succeed if given the proper opportunity. The recommendations made in this report are based on a thorough and comprehensive case assessment and feasibility study conducted by OSL. The projected outcomes summarized in this initial report are based on information and data collected from recent interviews with leading Americans. Additional extensive research conducted by OSL also reinforces those findings.
On behalf of the Commission, OSL has created a database of 322 individual/corporate/foundation major donors in priority order. OSL compiled many of these fundraising prospects through in-person discussions conducted within the last five months. All of these discussions focused on gauging prospects’ interest on the specific idea of creating an American Museum of Women’s History in Washington, D.C.
The American public is ready and able to support a project of this size and scope. However, a number of crucial factors will determine how this project should next proceed, particularly with regard to fundraising. Considerations of costs, timeframe, sites, competing projects, alliances, and the role of the federal government all play a part in determining how this campaign should operate moving forward to ensure a successful outcome. Ultimately, success will be dependent on strong campaign leadership, concise and consistent branding, a sophisticated pool of prospects, use of multi-faceted fundraising tools, and a prominent site location.
The future AMWH must also be the result of a public-private partnership. This arrangement may be formalized in ways similar to other projects on and off the National Mall. Previous campaigns have demonstrated that a successful public-private partnership is possible, particularly for projects located in Washington, D.C. and of such national importance that there is an expectation from the public that the government should invest or contribute toward its success.
There are encouraging trends with regard to the evolving power and influence of the group most invested in this Museum – women. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, data collected in June 2016 revealed that:
Women control 51 percent of the personal wealth in this country,
Women hold 52 percent of the professional and management positions in the job market,
The projected personal wealth of women will be $22 trillion in 2020,
40 percent of households with children have women as the primary “breadwinner” – which is up 11 percent from 1960,
24 percent of married women now earn more than their husbands,
There are over 145 women billionaires worldwide, and
70 percent of inherited wealth in the next two generations will go to women.
These numbers should only continue to grow, creating a stronger and ever-evolving donor pool for this Museum’s effort. Furthermore, responses given by both men and women in OSL’s study indicate overwhelming support for a national museum dedicated to women’s history in America. This demand to create an institution that explicitly honors and highlights the experiences of women and their impact on society should help make the campaign a priority for Congress.
The Commission has addressed the key criteria necessary to determine the feasibility of successfully conducting a campaign of this size, scope, and mission. As mentioned previously in this report, the Commission is also working to engage and create a formalized partnership with the Smithsonian. The opportunity to move forward immediately, through a phased approach, will enable the future AMWH to raise funds, recruit leadership, and create the organizational structure needed to move the Museum from concept to reality. The Commission has addressed many of the issues confronting the challenges associated with a campaign of this magnitude and has already taken steps to bring together the principal players who can accelerate the realization of this Museum.
Finally, the Commission has already tapped into a wealth of potential prospects for future leadership and major financial support. Major components of the required infrastructure are now in place. The next step is to work with the leadership in government to act on our findings and recommendations.
Zitkala-Sa – Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist
Independent Fundraising Assessment
Congress required of the Commission that an independent professional assessment of the fundraising plan be conducted. Whisnant Strategies, a Washington, D.C. based philanthropic advisory firm was retained by the American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission to review and assess the fundraising plan which was conducted and submitted by Odell, Simms and Lynch (OSL) and agreed to by the Commission. Mr. Stephen Whisnant reported the following:
“In brief, Whisnant Strategies believes that OSL has provided a thorough and realistic assessment of what ’possibilities’ exist for a future museum of this size and scope, given a competitive landscape in the National Capital Region for supporting and advancing museum projects. The report cites that private support will be critical–absolutely necessary–to make this museum a reality; the assessment provides an outline of sophisticated and timely development approaches which will be important to implement the future Museum’s effort to guide the first phase of what will be an ambitious capital campaign. Our assessment agrees that the amount cited, which includes building an endowment from the beginning, is a realistic goal. The following notes underscore their findings, and include a few important items to review and consider as the Commission advances its important work:
The plan states that the recruitment of leadership and the securing of lead gifts will be the critical ‘benchmark’ to monitor progress and determine if a successful plan can be achieved. The plan should consider clarifying the categories of important leadership roles: a) Campaign Leadership, which might include an illustrious group of Honorary Campaign Members, b) Board of Directors for the Museum and c) Advisory Board, which needs to include ‘notable’ scholars, business leaders and/or civic leaders who validate and contribute substantively to the content and program pieces of the Museum. The outline of ‘roles and responsibilities’ cited is a thorough and excellent set of criteria of active involvement. A question that would provide greater clarity as a later time might answer the question ‘Is this a role for Campaign Leadership, members of the Board of Directors, or both?’
The section on ’Multiple Fundraising Activities’ is both realistic and comprehensive and will allow both the volunteer leadership, and the full-time professional staff to establish internal goals, monitor progress and report to key stakeholders. Subsection (2) might consider including an effort to establish ‘honoring mini-campaigns’ whereby the staff and volunteer leadership identifies and designates a person of great stature to honor and have a fundraising plan created around them so they can be recognized within the Museum. This effort will allow several attractive spaces within the Museum to generate significant financial support and garner additional attention and interest in the Museum’s fundraising plan.
The plan, again, outlines the correct ingredients of a vibrant and successful campaign and it is suggested that the plan might benefit from incorporating and projecting specific goals/ benchmarks within the suggested timeline, for example, Goal for Phase I, including some established benchmarks throughout the suggested four- to ten-year time period. The future Museum effort will need to continue to explore and determine if there are additional supporting funds outside of the private sector funders to achieve the fundraising goals.
The plan calls for an ambitious fundraising goal. However, the tiered giving levels appear to be reasonable and consistent with similar national museum projects.
Overall, this plan provides a good road map and analysis for the Commission to advance the dialogue and exploration for the establishment of the future Museum. It provides all the right areas that will need time and attention, and, given the breadth and depth of this plan, it is realistic for this time period, for this region and for this particular cause. The wealth of prospects needed to meet this campaign goal is realistic from our professional perspective. Our assessment does urge the future Museum effort leadership, working independently with their board and advisors, and with OSL, to continue to evaluate and explore a number of issues, which will relate to the implementation of Phase I. These include, but may not be limited to:
Securing the early necessary funds to implement Phase I; identify and advance some seed/angel investors to provide the necessary funds to kick start this important fundraising plan.
Focusing on assembling the right materials and ancillary products to advance the case and tell the story of why this future Museum is so important at this time in our history as a nation.
Reviewing, outlining and determining the type of professional fundraising staff that will be needed to implement this first phase, in what is a very competitive market for successful professionals.
In conclusion, the plan provides exactly the type of information that the Commission needs to build its case and to advance this future Museum. The goals and timeline are ambitious, but a project of this importance and scope necessitates that it be so. This plan should be a strong complement to its argument to advance this future Museum so one day it will be a landmark for the region, and the world at large.”
– This statement was respectfully submitted by Stephen Whisnant, October 2016
“When people keep telling you that you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try it.”
New York Suffrage Parade, 1917
Capital and Operating Budget
Rough Order of Magnitude Based on 75,000 sq. feet
Capital and Operating Budget
Rough Order of Magnitude Based on 90,000 sq. feet
Capital and Operating Budget
Erin D. Chapman, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
Kyle E. Ciani*, Ph.D.
Illinois State University
Stephanie Cole, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Arlington
Debbie Ann Doyle, Ph.D.
American Historical Association
Elizabeth Escobedo*, Ph.D.
University of Denver
Ruth Fairbanks*, Ph.D.
Indiana State University
Susan Ferentinos*, Ph.D.
Public History Consultant
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Tanisha C. Ford, Ph.D.
University of Delaware
Vanessa Northington Gamble, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
Claire Guadiani, Ph.D.
Tiffany M. Gill*, Ph.D.
University of Delaware
Association of Black Women Historians
Janet Golden*, Ph.D.
Rutgers University, Camden
Cassandra Good*, Ph.D.
Papers of James Monroe
University of Mary Washington
National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Jim Grossman, Ph.D.
American Historical Association
National Woman’s Party
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front
National Historical Park
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
Mary Hawkesworth, Ph.D.
Ramona Houston, Ph.D.
National Woman’s Party
Heather Huyck, Ph.D.
National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites
Nicole Ivy*, Ph.D.
American Alliance of Museums
National Woman’s Party
National Woman’s Party
Alan Kraut*, Ph.D.
Chrissy Lau*, Ph.D.
Sarah Leavitt*, Ph.D.
The National Building Museum
Talitha Lefloria, Ph.D.
University of Virginia
Molly Murphy MacGregor
National Women’s History Project
Maryland Women’s Heritage Center
Joyce Malcolm, Ph.D.
George Mason University
Girl Scouts of the USA
Michelle McClellan*, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
Lorraine Krall McCrary*, Ph.D.
Debra Michals*, Ph.D.
Sonya Michel*, Ph.D.
University of Maryland, College Park
Marla R. Miller*, Ph.D.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
National Woman’s Party
New York Historical Society
Maria E. Montoya, Ph.D.
New York University
Patricia Mooney-Melvin*, Ph.D.
Loyola University Chicago
Bonnie Morris, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
Mulhauser and Associates
Pamela S. Nadell, Ph.D.
Association of Jewish Studies
Evanston Women’s History Project
Valerie Paley, Ph.D.
Center for Women’s History
New York Historical Society
Karin Rosemblatt, Ph.D.
University of Maryland
Fath Davis Ruffins*
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Vicki L. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine
Virginia Sapiro, Ph.D.
Jennifer Scanlon*, Ph.D.
Katrin Schultheiss, Ph.D.
The George Washington University
Marjorie J. Spruill, Ph.D.
University of South Carolina
Susan Fisher Sterling
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Susan Strasser, Ph.D.
University of Delaware
Philippa Strum, Ph.D.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson, Ph.D.
German Historical Institute
Francille Rusan Wilson*, Ph.D.
University of Southern California
Association of Black Women Historians
Leandra Zarnow*, Ph.D.
University of Houston
*Also participated in Scholar Working Groups
Honorable David J. Skorton
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Richard Kurin, Ph.D.
Acting Provost/Under Secretary for Museums and Research
Director of the National Museum of American History
Director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations
Acting Chief of Staff
Director of Smithsonian Affiliations
National Women’s History Museum
Susan Whiting, Chair
Catherine Allgor, Ph.D.
Jon S. Bouker
Gretchen Green, MD, MMS
Cynthia Hardy Young, J.D.
Mari Snyder Johnson
Ann E.W. Stone
Wilma L. Vaught, Brigadier General, USAF (Ret.)
Joan Bradley Wages, President & CEO
Becky L. Schergens
Government Relations Advisors
Laurie Fenton Ambrose
Linda Earley Chastang
District of Columbia Office of Planning
U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
Government Services Administration (GSA)
National Capital Planning Commission
National Park Service
Honorable Marsha Blackburn
Kate Campbell Stevenson
Honorable Susan Collins
Honorable Elizabeth Dole
The late Gary Glasberg
Marjory Hardy Sheldon
Honorable Heidi Heitkamp
Honorable Carolyn Maloney
Honorable Mitch McConnell
Sonya Michel, Ph.D.
Honorable Barbara Mikulski
Marla R. Miller, Ph.D.
Honorable Susan Molinari
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley
Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Jane MacCallum Preziosi
Honorable Harry Reid
Honorable Rosie Rios
Honorable Paul Ryan
Di Bagley Stovall
American Alliance of Museums
Arab Gulf State Institution in Washington
Archives and Special Collections, Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University
Arther and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Harvard University
Autry Museum of the American West
Concerned Women for America
Daughters of the American Revolution
First Ladies National Historic Site
Frances Willard House Museum & Archives
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Lung Cancer Alliance
McBride Real Estate Services, Inc.
National Archives and Records Administration
National Archives for Black Women’s History, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site
National Coalition of History
The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
National Woman’s Party (formerly the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum)
National Women’s History Project
The Prudence Crandall Museum
Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, Duke University
Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries
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There has never been a better time for the American Museum of Women’s History.
On May 19, 1919, Congress took a bold step, and with a joint resolution, proposed a constitutional amendment extending the right of suffrage to women.
June 4th, 2019 will mark a momentous 100th anniversary for Congress. On that day, in 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, recognizing the importance, the equity and the power of the woman’s right to vote.
On August 18th, 1920, the nation gave its full endorsement of this change, and with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, all American women were guaranteed the right to vote.
The American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH) has enormous opportunities ahead in the next few years. There is powerful potential for symbolic references to these centennial celebrations – through congressional approval and support of the Museum by 2019, and with an invitation for the entire nation to join by the summer of 2020.
Plans to mark this centennial celebration are already underway; special events, ribbon cuttings, parades, and educational symposia will take place across the country. The media attention that is sure to follow will only add to the excitement of the celebration. There has never been a better time for an American Museum of Women’s History.
There has never been a more important time for the American Museum of Women’s History.
For the first time, an American woman has become the first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. Women have obtained greater political power by participating more actively in Congress, in state governments, in city and community leadership roles. They have gained momentum in the corporate arena by becoming leaders in some of the biggest and most successful industries in the world. They go on to volunteer and lead philanthropic organizations while continuing to nurture and raise families.
Now is the time – legislators, corporate leaders, influential women and male political leaders as well as everyday Americans should be talking about women’s history. Working within the Smithsonian Institution system, and across the country with regional museums, the AMWH will garner the collective energy to delve deeper, research, recount and present how women got to where they are today.
U.S. history is not complete without women’s history. Absent women’s history, only half of the nation’s story is being told --women’s history is American history.
As Barbara Mikulski, the most senior woman in the U.S. Senate, recently said, “Women’s history is American history. Women have been trailblazers throughout our history, using grit, passion and determination to seize the day and to make a difference. We must not only honor the past — we must learn from it.” This ideal applies to all Americans, men and women.
Recently, President Obama spoke at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We can learn a lot from that museum’s successful path, and use his passionate words about American history to help make the American Museum of Women’s History’s case — the President said:
“And by knowing this other story, we better understand ourselves and each other. It binds us together. It reaffirms that all of us are American … It is central to the American story, that our glory derives not just from our most obvious triumphs, but how we’ve wrested triumph from tragedy, and how we’ve been able to remake ourselves again, and again, and again, in accordance with our highest ideals.”
Across the board, the American Museum of Women’s History will meet an existing and increasing appetite for more information on women’s dynamic participation in American history.
There is already a clear demand for informative entertainment centered on women’s history and successful women. Consider the positive reviews and popularity of movies like A League of Their Own, which chronicled women’s lives during World War II, as well as Helen Keller, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, Jane’s Journey and Gloria: In her Own Words. The PBS biographical documentary series Makers has been airing with the largest collection of videos about women — stories that inspire and transform. More importantly, women are being cast as heads of hospitals, police departments, law offices, and other leadership roles, in a variety of film media.
In addition to the films, shows and documentaries, there has been a recent upsurge in advertisements celebrating the strength, diversity, and capabilities of women. Favorite ad campaigns for Dove, Always, and Under Armour, for example, seek to question our cultural understanding of beauty, of what it means to do something “like a girl,” and what a girl can or should be able to do. The conversations surrounding women are changing and people seem ever more excited to celebrate and discuss women. The Museum can tap into this excitement with exhibits from American women’s distant and recent past, documenting their struggles as well as their achievements.
The AMWH will educate as well as inspire and meet our nation’s need for diverse role models for girls as well as boys.
The Museum will tell the stories of the lives of accomplished women across a range of fields, both those conventionally associated with men — such as politics, science, business and medicine — but also those that are less recognized, in part because they are associated primarily with women — such as education, volunteerism, culinary arts and home economics. All are part of the American story, and can serve as role models that can help girls, boys, and young men and women achieve greater success. Exhibits will explain the obstacles these women had to overcome, such as lack of access to higher education, barriers to employment and prohibitions against public participation such as voting. Seen in this light, their achievements will strike visitors as all the more remarkable – yet also achievable.
It may seem that telling the story of women speaks to only half of our audience, but in fact everyone will benefit from a Museum that offers a comprehensive history of our country.
Our children — and really, all of our citizens — deserve to hear how women helped create our great nation. Women’s history is American history.
The AMWH will shape the future as it makes the past come alive for present generations and plants the seeds for ideas and personal growth.
There is nothing like physically being in a museum, standing in the midst of fascinating exhibits and soaking up new knowledge. Think of the faces of the children who see the massive skeletons of dinosaurs for the first time at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, or who climb in the flight simulator at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Similarly, visiting the American Museum of Women’s History and encountering firsthand the objects and settings that have been the stuff of American women’s lives and accomplishments will make for memorable experiences and supplement what students have (or have not) learned in their textbooks. It will be like no place else.
The contributions of American women to American history deserve national celebration and recognition.
Do you believe that America’s current history museums adequately tell the story of women’s contributions and experiences?
General Outreach Survey | 10.25.16
In order to educate and inspire, we need to create more visibility for women’s amazing achievements. Women are currently underrepresented in the main sites of public history—textbooks, currency, postage stamps, monuments and the like:
The only women to have been featured to date on U.S. banknotes – for a brief time – were Martha Washington, on the $1 bill in the late 1880s, and Pocahontas on the $20 bill in the 1860s. Similarly, only Sacagawea, Susan B. Anthony and Helen Keller have appeared on U.S. coins. (Currency featuring Harriet Tubman is coming in the future.)
Between 1960 and today, 184 public statues of individual women were installed in the United States, compared to 1,440 statues of men.
Of the more than 5,000 public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States, only 394, or fewer than 8 percent, are of women. And only one of the 44 national memorials managed by the National Park Service (such as the Lincoln Memorial) specifically focuses on women and their achievements—the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, which was only recently acquired by the National Park Service in 2016.
The design of the AMWH will support a mission of innovative and compelling storytelling that is accessible to all.
Because it will be starting from scratch, the AMWH will have the opportunity to adopt the most creative and cutting-edge technologies available – to become a “museum of the future.” It will have virtual-reality exhibits, 3-D storytelling, and interactive, experiential displays that will attract visitors and keep them engaged. Many of the exhibits will be designed for digital export, turning the Museum into a national and international campus that can be reached from anywhere via the internet. Conversely, visitors will be able to leave their stories about remarkable women that will add to the richness and diversity of the content. The bricks-and-mortar research center will also include a virtual component, enabling it to webcast and podcast seminars and symposia. And all of this will be fully accessible to all people.
Pearl Bailey once observed, “You must change in order to survive.” We will continue to innovate and adopt new technologies as they become available in order to tell our story, so that visitors will want to return to the American Museum of Women’s History over and over again.
The AMWH will be unique, relevant and have an important impact on the future.
Museums are public classrooms, and the notion of an educated citizenry dates back to the founding of our republic. Our public classroom will teach citizens everything from the evolution of women’s role in domestic life since pioneer days to the rise of female entrepreneurs to women’s support of World War II at home and in the armed services to outstanding leadership roles today — in a way that is digitally interactive and participatory, but also historically accurate and academically appropriate.
The AMWH will feature stories of women overcoming barriers and meeting the challenges presented by everyday life in different decades by: increasing educational opportunities; removing legal constraints to owning property and voting; and expanding participation in business, the professions, the military, sports, and the arts. Through it all, we will also focus on those women committed to family and service to others — an often overlooked responsibility shared in common by women who belong to all races, abilities, religions and political persuasions. These stories will resound in a variety of interactive engaging lessons about civic engagement and responsibility for all visitors.
The AMWH will focus on American women in their many roles.
Americans need to learn about female CEOs and factory workers, about women rocket scientists and rock stars. In fact, some of the world’s greatest inventions were created by women who are not household names. Consider Maria Beaseley, the Philadelphia woman who invented the life raft in 1882. Or Stephanie Kwolek, the Dupont chemist who in 1965 came up with Kevlar, a steel-like fiber used in the bullet-proof vests that protect our police and military forces. Few people know of Marion Donovan, the woman who patented the disposable diaper, called a “Waterproof Boater,” in 1951. Crafting it from a shower curtain, she persuaded Saks Fifth Avenue to stock her first version, then sold the patent on it for $1 million and used the money to create an entirely disposable model a few years later. As a result, Pampers were born in 1961.
Drawing on their experience both inside and outside the home, these women used their knowledge and ingenuity to come up with inventions that saved money and time as well as lives. Exhibits that highlight such innovations will illuminate the unique links between women and American business as well as science and technology.
The AMWH will present difficult subjects in well researched, balanced and inclusive ways.
The Museum will present the history of American women. As at any museum, some exhibits may be controversial. Controversy can be a very positive thing – it gets people talking and engages them in debate. It draws people to places like museums to learn more and, by testing and informing their opinions, ultimately serves to strengthen people’s critical thinking skills. Ultimately, this process also strengthens the individual.
At the AMWH, controversial or difficult subjects will always be presented with input from all sides, in well researched and unbiased ways. Museums are excellent environments for inviting people to explore more when they are interested in learning more. A large variety of experiential environments can employ different engagement techniques for distinctive and diverse learning styles. Visitors to the Museum will be invited to form their own perceptions, think critically about the subject matter, and draw their own conclusions.
We will reach outside the academic community to involve artists, politicians, scientists, athletes and other experts in creating our exhibits, thereby ensuring a diversity of intellectual approaches. The exhibits will always present multiple perspectives, sharing stories from all walks of life about every kind of American woman from the unknown to the more famous and iconic leaders.
The AMWH will add to the presentation of our nation’s history.
There is no “one” museum that encompasses all of American history, just as there is no one art gallery for all the different types of American art, or one performance hall for all the categories of music in America, or one stadium for every American sport. For all of its excellence, the Smithsonian’s existing National Museum of American History cannot alone do justice to all the different experiences and perspectives in American history. Thus, on the National Mall, we currently also have the United States Holocaust Memorial, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, with the National Museum of the American Latino on the drawing board.
Similarly, the history of American women is diverse and complicated, and deserves inclusion in this mosaic. Because women are part of every race, class, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, and region of the country, their stories will never fit into a singular narrative (although that is how they are often presented). One survey respondent put it well: “I live in D.C. where we have the Smithsonian museums as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Yet the American History Museum mainly focuses on women via the First Ladies’ inaugural gowns and Julia Child’s kitchen, while the art museum focuses on women’s art, not history. There is certainly room for more coverage of women’s role in history at the museums in D.C.” The American Museum of Women’s History will present the kind of comprehensive, complex and multi-faceted narrative of women’s lives and experiences that this respondent seems to be calling for – one that spans the entire history of the nation.
At the same time, we are fortunate to have a multitude of regional museums telling the story of our nation in multifaceted ways — from presidential libraries to Civil War battlefields, from Monticello’s slave quarters to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This galaxy of regional and specialized museums does not detract from the national museums in Washington, D.C.; instead they underscore the depth and breadth of our history. Many states have a women’s hall of fame; there’s even a national one located in Seneca Falls, N.Y., the birthplace of the suffrage movement. We believe a comprehensive national “women’s hall of fame” could serve as a hub for all of them and be located in Washington, D.C.
Via the internet and other means, the AMWH will help create a nationwide network of museums and other sites around women’s history.
Every year, almost 70 million visitors come to Washington, D.C. via plane and train. The National Park Service reports that another 8 million visitors arrive here annually on nearly 200,000 tour buses — most of them school groups. Despite these numbers, we realize that not every American child can afford to come to the nation’s capital on a field trip. Thus we plan to make our exhibits available to students worldwide through our “digital campus,” possibly using Google Expeditions or Google Museum View with its cardboard viewers. Through relationships built with smaller regional museums all over the country, we will help develop a variety of exhibits on women’s history, making the AMWH a digital gateway for students and teachers to travel the galaxy of women’s history museums across the nation.
The AMWH will develop key partnerships with museums nationwide.
The AMWH will quickly become a centralized hub for critical ongoing discussions about women’s history. All will benefit. The AMWH will serve as a leader, inspiring the sharing of new experiences, current research, and untold stories. The AMWH will enable peer institutions to access extensive women’s history archives and collections for their own use, lend collections and offer traveling exhibits to local museums, and vice versa. Thus, it will not drain resources away from other institutions, but will instead provide them with vital resources and foster cross-institutional collaborations.
The AMWH will also direct visitors, students and scholars to their collections and serve as a gateway for those who want to learn more. Such relationships will draw attention to smaller, often overlooked local and regional museums and landmarks, enabling them to collectively tell the story of American women nationwide.
Top-notch scholarship will be central to the AMWH, in a way that both informs and engages. A Research Center will be a core component of this effort.
An impeccable intellectual foundation is key to any museum. Fortunately, women’s history, just a fledging subject 50 years ago, has now become an established academic field, with thousands of professors, researchers and students working in it nationwide. We know that presentation as well as accuracy will be important to get people from every demographic to walk through the doors, so we will work with leading curators and exhibit designers to devise compelling and innovative ways to engage audiences.
Inclusivity is essential for this fuller recounting of American history, and the Museum experience cannot be the exclusive domain of any one perspective, ideology or agenda. Thus we will strive to make all aspects of the Museum as diverse as possible.
The Commissioners will not be determining the exact content of the Museum; instead, its collections will be developed through collaboration between teams of academics, curators and outside experts. In the event that we become part of the Smithsonian family (as we hope to do), an additional layer of governance and experience will ensure that a full spectrum of experts is guiding our collecting standards and policies, preservation efforts, research, archives, programming, and exhibits.
A world-class research center and meeting space for symposia and educational events will allow scholars to advance the state of research in women’s history. Having an academic research center embedded in the Museum is central to our success in terms of educational outreach as well as the content of exhibits. As a major historical institution with national and international prominence, we hope to offer fellowships for visiting historians and students from all over the world, as well as link to state-of-the-art research technology to share with large and small museums, colleges, universities and cultural institutions.
The Museum will strengthen educational missions city-wide by creating content bridges that reach to other D.C. museums.
The AMWH will tell the story of diversity among the strong women who have led our nation though the centuries. For example, an area of the Museum might be devoted to the leadership of African American women, or Latino or American Indian women in their homes and communities. The AMWH will link to the exhibits in the other Smithsonian museums and advocate visits there to discover more. In addition, these links can begin on- site digitally with engaging interactivity, and ultimately invite additional research at home through portals into other collections and museums. This helps cultural tourism throughout the city and beyond, and further bonds the collections and relationships between the Smithsonian museums. The AMWH will reinforce inclusivity, not only among the museums in Washington, D.C., but also in the premise that women’s history is America’s history.
The AMWH will be a popular destination for tourists, and its creation makes good business sense for Washington, D.C.
According to the National Park Service, more than 25 million people visit the National Mall every year. Washington D.C. is consistently ranked as one of the top ten cities visited by tourists each year.
According to Destination D.C., last year’s visitors to the District of Columbia spent a record-breaking $7.1 billion on lodging, food, entertainment, shopping and transportation — and attracted one million more domestic visitors than in 2014. Travel and tourism in D.C. supports 74,000 jobs. Adding a major Museum to the mix, especially one that tells the stories of more than half our population in a unique way, will help generate even more jobs, wages, tax revenue and economic growth.
Working closely with the city will be part of the mission of the AMWH, with the goal of developing marketing, promotional and business opportunities. Financial sponsorships from the community, partnerships and corporations will create a business model to support rotating temporary exhibits in the Museum.
Women make up a majority of our population. The AMWH will have a natural built-in audience of influential decision makers, public advocates and financial supporters.
In 1910, women comprised 48 percent of America’s population; a century later, that proportion had risen to 51 percent – today there are more American women than men. Since the 1980s, the majority of American voters have been women, and women now hold more bachelor’s degrees than do men. More women are starting businesses in America than men, and more than half of the personal wealth in the United States currently belongs to women.
According to the 2010 Census, there are 157 million women in the United States who, through their own buying power and influence, control an estimated 75 percent of all consumer spending. Corporate America knows who is making buying decisions at every level. Furthermore, as primary caregivers, many women buy on behalf of different generations—themselves, their children, and their parents. Once their children are grown, the discretionary income of these women increases to such an extent that a woman over 50 may spend up to 2.5 times that of the average woman. To the AMWH, this often-overlooked source of economic power offers an invaluable base for potential funding. Its advancement team will reach out to women for their support, so that they can help make a Museum about their history a reality.
Location does matter. A prominent site among some of the country’s most highly regarded museums in the epicenter of our nation’s capital sends an important message to our fellow citizens, especially young people: women matter, and women’s history matters.
Having the Museum located near other iconic museums and monuments in our nation’s capital conveys a legitimacy to women’s history that is missing today. The symbolic importance of the Museum’s location in Washington, D.C. will be clear to all.
Jane Abraham has enjoyed a successful career in the private sector, the non-profit sector and the political arena. For a number of years, she provided consulting services through Abraham Strategies, LLC, a strategic marketing, government affairs and event planning business she founded in 2002. Most recently she launched a new business with her daughters, Abraham Retail Group, LLC, and will be opening and managing a number of Scout & Molly’s franchise boutiques. She also has a wide range of experience on educational, cultural and social service boards. Jane currently is a member of the board of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, where she chairs its governance committee. She is a member of Claremont McKenna College’s Parent Network Board, where she co-chairs the parent fund. Additionally, she is a member of the board of the Arab American National Museum and is chairman of the board of the Susan B. Anthony List. Her past service includes being a member of the board of directors of The Nurturing Network and Covenant House Michigan, and a member of the board of trustees of both the Lab School of Washington and the Meridian International Center. Jane was a senior Republican Party official in Michigan. She is married to former U. S. Secretary of Energy and U.S. Senator Spencer Abraham. They have three children and reside in McLean, Virginia.
Jane was nominated to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Mary Boies is counsel to Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, where she specializes in antitrust and corporate commercial litigation. She is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations and chairs its committee on nominations and governance. She is vice chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a private sector group that connects best business practices to government agencies in the national security space. She is on the executive committee and dean’s council of the Harvard Kennedy School. She is a member of the board of directors of the International Rescue Committee and has served on the board of the International Center for Journalists. Previously, she was founder and managing partner at Boies & McInnis LLP. She has served as vice president at CBS Inc., general counsel of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board, assistant director of the domestic policy staff at the White House, and counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce. She served a term as member of the committee established by President Dwight Eisenhower to conduct non-partisan, professional peer review of federal judicial nominees. She founded and later sold MaryBoies Software Inc., a publisher of children’s educational software. Titles include Top of the Key and Slam Dunk Typing. They were recognized among PC Data’s top 10 titles and Newsweek magazine’s top picks. She and her husband of 34 years live in New York and have two grown children.
Mary was nominated to the Commission by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Bridget Maloney Bush is an attorney and writer in Louisville, KY. Originally from New Hartford, NY, she graduated from Syracuse University and Harvard Law School. Following her clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Bridget practiced in the Washington, D.C. office of Debevoise & Plimpton. She and her husband John Bush relocated to Louisville in 1996, where she stayed at home to raise her three boys until she returned to private practice at the Louisville office of Landrum & Shouse. In that capacity, Bridget represented U.S. Sen. Rand Paul as amicus curiae in the Supreme Court of the United States for the challenge to the Affordable Care Act. She practices in the areas of commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense. Bridget has also been recognized for her pro bono representation of numerous victims of domestic violence. Bridget was elected to and served for eight years on a local school board, and now serves as chair of the advisory board to the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. She recently served on the transition team for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Bridget is a founding member of the Louisville Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society and the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition. She provides conservative commentary as a columnist for the Courier-Journal and the blog “Elephants in the Bluegrass,” which she founded in 2008.
Bridget was nominated to the Commission by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Pat Mitchell is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. Her career has focused on using media as a force for social change, with an emphasis on the representation of women’s stories.
Ms. Mitchell is the former president of CNN Productions, where she executive produced programs that have received 35 Emmy Awards and five Peabody Awards. In 2000, she became the first woman president and CEO of PBS. Mitchell also served as president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media. In 2011, Ms. Mitchell partnered with TEDTalks to co-curate the TEDWomen global conference, which will be held this year in San Francisco on Oct. 26–28.
Ms. Mitchell is especially proud to have been recognized by The Women’s Media Center with its first Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given annually to other women for advancing women through media. She also advises foundations and corporations on women’s empowerment issues and leadership development as well as media relations and governance.
She is the chair of the Women’s Media Center and Sundance Institute boards, a founding board member of V-Day, a member of the board of the Acumen Fund, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, Mitchell holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature. She has taught at the University of Georgia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
Ms. Mitchell was appointed to the Commission by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Marilyn Musgrave currently is the vice president of government affairs at the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life organization in Washington, D.C. She served in the House of Representatives and State Senate in Colorado before being elected to Congress for the fourth district in 2002. She served three terms in Congress, where she championed conservative values including the protection of life at all stages, traditional marriage, and fiscal responsibility. She is the first Republican woman to be elected to Congress in Colorado.
Marilyn was nominated to the Commission by former Speaker of the House John Boehner.
Maria Pesqueira has over two decades of leadership experience in the human service arena, bringing expert perspective to areas including strategic planning and management, program development, communications, fundraising and public health. She currently serves as a National Advisory Council member of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She also serves as the board chair of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, is the immediate past chair of the Illinois Partners for Human Services and has served as executive committee board member for the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization. In 2000, Pesqueira was named president and CEO for Mujeres Latinas en Accion, one of the longest standing Latina human service organizations in the nation. Previously, Maria was the director of development for the National Museum of Mexican Art. Pesqueira’s awards include being honored with the 2012 Making A Difference Award by the Chicago Women and Philanthropy, being named by Chicago magazine as one of six Chicagoans of the Year 2006; the 2005 National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Women Who Dared Award; The 2003 Thomas Jefferson Award; Accento magazine’s Woman of the Year for 2002; and Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40 for the year 2000. She was selected as a member of The Chicago Network, a premier organization of diverse, professional women in the Chicago area who have reached the highest echelons of business, the arts, government, the professions and academia. Maria and her husband David are the proud parents of son David Ollin.
Maria was appointed to the Commission by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Recognized nationally and internationally for her leadership and communication expertise, Emily Kernan Rafferty is president emerita of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, serving there for 40 years – including a decade as president — and working in over 50 countries with senior officials on initiatives regarding funding, sponsorship, lobbying on not-for-profit issues, cultural property, international loans, and federal indemnity for artworks. She is currently chair of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Ms. Rafferty is a board member of the National September 11th Memorial & Museum, Senior Adviser for Heritage Protection and Conservation for UNESCO, and an advisory director to Carnegie Hall. Crain’s New York Business named her one of New York City’s 100 Most Influential Women from 2009 through 2013, and in Fall 2015 she was elected to its Hall of Fame. A graduate of Boston University with a degree in the History of Africa and the Middle East, Ms. Rafferty has received numerous honorary degrees and awards, and speaks frequently on the arts, culture, and the not-for-profit sector. Emily Rafferty is married to John Rafferty, a retired audit Partner at Ernst & Young. The couple live in Manhattan and have a grown son and daughter and two grandchildren.
Emily was appointed to the Commission by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.