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$55 million gift to a new Smithsonian Women’s History Museum from Tory Burch and others
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$55 million gift to a new Smithsonian Women’s History Museum from Tory Burch and others

Although the Smithsonian Institution’s American Women’s History Museum won’t open for at least ten years, efforts to find a location for it have gotten a major boost thanks to $55 million in donations, including those from philanthropist Melinda French Gates, Walmart heiress Alice L. Walton, and fashion designer Tory Burch.

The museum’s 23-member advisory board also includes actors Rosario Dawson and Lynda Carter, tennis great Billie Jean King, and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark in addition to Walton and Burch.

“We are very thrilled to start Women’s History Month with the assistance of such a fantastic group of benefactors who are dedicated to bringing the story of the American woman to light,” Lisa Sasaki, the museum’s interim director, said in a statement. “Together, we will establish a museum honoring the women who have contributed to the development of this nation. These contributions are essential to achieving this goal.

Beginning with the establishment of a Women’s History Congressional Commission in December 2014, which was entrusted with investigating whether the country would benefit from such a museum, that concept has already been almost ten years in the making.

A museum dedicated to women’s history should be built in Washington, D.C., preferably on the National Mall, according to a bipartisan commission that gave a recommendation to Congress in 2016.

Former New York Congressman Carolyn Maloney sponsored a measure in 2017 that would have created such a museum, but it was never put to a vote. She attempted again in 2019, and the House approved the bill in February 2020. In December of that year, the Senate established the National Museum of the American Hispanic by passing a related measure.

The Smithsonian unveiled two potential locations for the two new institutions, which would serve as its 20th and 21st museums, on the National Mall in October, marking the most recent advancement in the project.

The two will now compete for the more visible site, which is located across from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as opposed to the less visible site, which is located near the eastern bank of the Tidal Basin but is not directly on the mall.

Before they can start receiving guests, both museums still have a considerable way to go. Over 30 years after the bill calling for its establishment was originally introduced, the African American History Museum, the Smithsonian’s newest addition, opened its doors in May 2016.

It’s possible that the Smithsonian family will grow further. The National Museum of American LGBTQ+ History and Culture will be founded, according to two proposals that U.S. Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin presented last October. A bill establishing a commission to consider the possibility of building a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture was also signed into law by President Joe Biden last June.

The Women’s History Museum is now on stable financial ground as it looks to the future thanks to $55 million in recent donations. It now employs 14 employees and an operating budget of just about $2 million.

Women are typically portrayed as supporting men in American history textbooks, according to Penny Pritzker, a former secretary of commerce and current chair of the museum’s advisory committee. But as we are all aware, women have played significant roles in American history. We are educators, legislators, innovators, and more.

The goal is to portray the tale of women’s accomplishments throughout American history to the sciences, politics, athletics, music, art, cinema, and other fields by utilizing the 157 million objects currently in the Smithsonian collection as well as fresh donations.

Sasaki told the New York Times, “We have a job to establish a museum that’s going to serve the public for a very, very long time,” adding that the goal is to recognize transgender women and the prejudice they have experienced. The aim to be inclusive has been ingrained in this museum’s DNA.

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