Monday, October 26, 2009

House Passes Bill for Another Museum

Finding itself surrounded by an insufficient number of museums, the House of Representatives this month passed H.R. 1700 to add another museum along the National Mall. "The National Women's History Museum Act of 2009," co-sponsored by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and 50 other Members, directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to sell property for the construction of a National Women's History Museum to research collect, and "showcase the contributions of women in professional fields," and "honor women's roles in nurturing their families and communities."

The agreement gives the museum administrator and federal government 6 months to work out a fair value for the land and sign a purchase agreement; the GSA has estimated the value of land at $60m. Though the site, bounded by 12th Street, SW, Independence Avenue, and C Street, is currently used only as a parking lot, the GSA has not declared the property "surplus," complicating the legislative process. Norton took the bill to full committee mark-up after defending against a last-minute "scoring rule" raised by the Congressional Budget Office, though the bill would maintain budget neutrality. The bill now heads for the Senate for approval.

"Women have waited too long for their own museum in the nation's capital," Norton said, adding that the Museum "has significant potential to bring new visitors to the District, and to encourage others to stay longer." Let the CBO try and score that.


Anonymous said...

My initial reaction was Uggh, just what we don't need, another museum! Especially one born of blatant political pandering.

As the idea has rolled around my mind, though, I wonder if a win-win could be engineered by this museum being an expansion of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. NMWA is a nice museum, but its subject matter is just a bit thin and narrow. Unfortunately, an insufficient quantity of women artists really were of top-notch quality and significance. There are reasons for this, of course, but it forces most of NMWA's exhibitions to include or even feature second- and third-tier artists. The appreciation of these works is always as much about cultural history (what the women overcame to paint, sculpt etc) as it is about art.

And isn't that what this proposed women's museum is all about? Seems to me that NMWA--already established and well-run--might be coaxed to provide a solid foundation for the women's museum. NMWA's first-tier masterpieces, such as the O'Keefes, would be stunning centerpieces, while the next tier of NMWA's collection would find true appreciation as part of the cultural history exhibition.

Anonymous said...

We need to stop the "African American museum" as well as this proposed monstrosity. THE MALL IS FULL! We ALREADY have an American history museum -- and blacks and women are part of that history. Demand that they devote a few wings to these causes!

If we're going to build, build, build, then I propose we ALSO get rid of the height restriction on buildings. It's only driven up rent and pushed people out to the ghetto and Virginia.

SWill on Oct 27, 2009, 12:22:00 AM said...

The site of the proposed museum isn't technically on the Mall. It's located on the south side of Independence Avenue next to the Department of Energy and across the street from the Smithsonian Metro entrance. Also, the proposed National Women's History Museum isn't a Smithsonian institution - yet. However, from what I gather, it can apply for inclusion in the Smithsonian family of museums once it's built.

Anonymous said...

Agree that this "special interest" approach to museum building is unfortunate and political. I think it serves to divide us more than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Norton thinks this will make people "stay in DC longer". What a dolt. Can't people just say no?

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