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Congressional commission proposes women’s history museum

A bipartisan congressional commission is calling for a women’s history museum to be erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The eight-member, all-women commission released a report Wednesday proposing the American Museum of Women’s History to “tell the stories, celebrate the accomplishments, and illuminate American women’s history in ways that will inspire and inform people of all ages and all walks of life.”

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) told the NewsHour that she first proposed a bill to establish a museum in 1998. She later worked across the aisle with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), to create a commission in 2014 tasked with exploring whether a museum would be viable.

“The commission has really embodied the often-elusive bipartisan cooperation that we need in Washington to get things done,” Maloney said.

The report proposes Congress either donate land or an existing building for the museum site.

Suggested sites include one directly across the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 19th-century Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall or the U.S. Capitol grounds.

Congress closed the National Mall to new construction in 2003 but an exception was recently made for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Reuters reported.

The museum would cost between $150 million and $180 million. The Smithsonian Institute would pay for daily operations, Maloney said.

“We have put in place a very pragmatic path forward to a museum,” said commission chairwoman Jane Abraham, who believes the Smithsonian would bring the “gravitas, expertise and experience a museum of this calibre should have.”

The National Women’s History Museum, which does not have a physical building and instead presents exhibits online, donated about $1 million to the commission, said Susan Whiting, chair of the board.

Whiting, who is a descendant of Susan B. Anthony, said a physical museum would be both a professional and personal breakthrough.

“We’re thrilled with this recognition that America deserves such a museum, and it should be located in a prominent place,” she said. “So we’re excited to take the next step to build it.”

If Congress approves the museum, it would likely take another a decade to complete.

Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, who recently met with the commission, said building the women’s museum is “not practical now” because of other ongoing projects, but said he recognizes the necessity of representing women in museums.

Maloney plans to introduce a bill that would outline and approve the creation of the museum in the coming months, according to her press office.

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