National Women’s History Museum Commission Issues Report to Congress and the President

On November 16, the Congressional Commission on an American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH) submitted its much-anticipated report to Congress and the President. The commission affirmed the need for a physical national museum honoring the impact and experience of women in America. 

Legislation creating the commission was passed by Congress in December 2014. NCH supported the creation of the commission and the development of a national women’s history museum in a 2104 letter to the U.S. Senate.

The commission recommended the museum become an official part of the Smithsonian Institution and be located one of three “preferred” sites on the National Mall: one at the South Washington Monument Site (mirroring the new National Museum of African American History and Culture), Northwest US Capitol Site (mirroring the United States Botanical Gardens), or Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building (unless the building is designated for a future Smithsonian Latino-American museum). The Arts and Industries building recently underwent a $55 million dollar renovation, but is currently vacant and underutilized.

Under the commission’s plan, the Museum would be funded with a combination of public and private funds with a fundraising goal ranging from $150–$180 million from the private sector. At least 75% of capital campaign funds would need to be pledged prior to any construction. The Museum would be between 75,000–90,000 square feet in size.

The commission calls for the creation of a 10-year strategic plan to develop the Museum in three phases.

The first “Action Plan” would require federal funding to go toward a Smithsonian-wide American Women’s History Initiative to make sure support is provided for the creation of a physical women’s history museum and ensuring women’s history is present in all current Smithsonian museums. The Commission recommends that an AMWH Interpretive Planning and Design Team 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.

The second phase would involve Congress allocating land or an existing building to Smithsonian so the American Museum of Women’s History would have a prominent location in downtown D.C.

Finally, the third phase would require Smithsonian to partner with private sector funding sources to complete the capital campaign and create the physical building of the Museum.  Private sector money would finance the construction of the 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. As with all other publicly owned Smithsonian museums, private sector money would also be raised to offset/augment these operational costs via a split funding campaign.

To read the executive summary and full report, click here. (http://amwh.us/report/)