Alexandria, VA

After working decades to get legislation passed for a museum dedicated to women’s history on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the National Women’s History Museum is negotiating to open a two-level 40,000-square-foot location at Union Station.

The proposed museum’s administrative offices have been based in the Alexandria’s West End since it was founded in 1996, with the goal of eventually opening on or near the National Mall. Last month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1980, the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, but it does not include a timeline or location.

The NWHM is now waiting for Senate approval and for an appropriate space to eventually open up.

“We are delighted that the legislation we fought so hard to get introduced all those years ago has overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a bi-partisan basis,” the museum said in a press release. “We urge the Senate to pass it, and the president to sign it… but we also understand the reality that the timeline is uncertain and the bill still needs to be funded.”

“Under the best of circumstances, a Smithsonian Museum dedicated to women’s history likely will be years — if not decades — away,” the press release adds. “Despite these challenges, we remain laser-focused on the urgency of representation — of sharing women’s stories, exploring their contributions to our national narrative, and creating a space that communicates the breadth and depth of women’s experiences and accomplishments. Time is of the essence, and as a private organization, we remain committed to building this museum now!”

“That’s what I was hired to do, to build a museum,” NWHM Executive Director Holly Hotchner told ALXnow. “The minute you get involved with government, there is no way to know a timeline or if something will get done. It is completely up to Congress, the Senate and the president of the United States, so our desire is to get a museum up and running and quickly as possible.”

For 17 years, Hotchner was the founding director of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and she said that much of what will be included in the museum depends on its location. She wants a facility with rotating exhibits, with items like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s gavel, historic papers, photographs, diaries and testimonials.

“We’re in conversations with the Smithsonian about how to work together, but it’s a moveable situation,” Hotchner said. “The bill just passed, and there is the expectation it will pass in the Senate, but no money has been raised and the Smithsonian has a huge list of priorities that has to be funded on the Mall, like the Air and Space Museum, which is in the middle of a huge renovation.”

Photo via National Women’s History Museum/Facebook

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