Will the women's museum 'white-wash' history?
The National Journal reported that the developing National Women's History Museum 'fired' its advisory council after members allegedly criticized an exhibit that failed to feature women of color.
A recent article in the National Journal pointed out that as most media outlets laud the progress towards opening a National Women's History Museum (NWHM), few are questioning the planned content of the museum and a recent controversial 'firing' of more than a dozen renowned female leaders from the museum's volunteer advisory council, a move that the NWHM attributed to "changed legislative strategy," in a press release titled, "Statement regarding dissolution of scholar advisory council."
Last week, the New York Times editorial board published an op-ed praising the upcoming approval of the NWHM, arguing that it's about time history recognizes the role of women. The op-ed did not mention the volunteer advisory council or critically analyze the museum's content.
One of the points that the New York Times ignored was how few women of color are in positions of leadership at the proposed museum.
Media have also largely ignored the recent deconstruction of the NWHM volunteer advisory council. The current list of "National Advisory Council" on the organization's website features few women of color and includes journalist and producer A'Lelia Bundles, U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye and first Latina astronaut Ellen Ochoa.
But what happened to the volunteer council? Instead, according to the NWHM, a pending bill would leave the responsibility of appointing eight historians in the hands of a male-dominated Congress.
Sonya Michel, a former museum advisor, emailed reporters about the controversial end to the advisory council, which allegedly criticized the planned exhibit, "Pathways to Equity," which features white women as the founders of women's rights movements. According to the Michel in the National Journal, many in the council planned to resign even before they were told to step down.
"We believe that the real reason for the dissolution was our steady criticism of the museum's practices and content, and the fact that many of us were planning to resign publicly because of concerns about its most recent exhibit," Michel wrote to the press. "We felt that they were using out names, our prestige."
If passed, the bill will allow Congressional leaders to appoint an advisory council with qualifications for each candidate that require expertise in women's history as well as museum administration, fundraising, planning museum design and experience in public service.
The controversy comes during women's history month and just a month after Google Doodles was criticized for failing to recognize the stories of women throughout history.