Project Section: Museums


Museums are the repositories of our nation’s history and heritage. Curators play a critical role in shaping our national memory and cultural values. Our Museums project will focus on calling attention to how women are portrayed and represented in museum exhibits. Areas we’ll focus on include:

  • Historical exhibits: Women’s contribution to history has been neglected for too long. It’s imperative that our museums present a fair, full depiction of women’s achievements.
  • Art exhibits: How many women artists are represented in galleries? What proportion of female subjects are still nudes? (As the Guerilla Girls asked 20 years ago, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum?”)
  • The National Women’s History Museum: It’s past time for a National Women’s History Museum to be built on the Mall in Washington, D.C. We support our friends and colleagues in advocating for this important museum to finally become a bricks-and-mortar reality.

Our Museums project is just now getting underway. If you’d like to be involved, or if you have ideas or suggestions to share, please email us at We’ll need volunteer coordinators, researchers, letter writers, interns, and helpers of every description (see our How You Can Help page for more).

Watch this space for updates as the project takes shape.

Museum Project Updates

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC
The Alba Madonna by Raphael.

The Alba Madonna by Raphael.

Yesterday my cousin was in town from New York and I decided to take her to the National Gallery of Art. We walked in exactly when a highlights tour was about to start. How could we pass up a free tour by a highly qualified docent?

Half way through the tour I noticed that we had not seen a single painting by a woman artist. Lots of the paintings we viewed were of women since lots of the works painted during the Italian Renaissance were of the Madonna and Child. Of course, Raphael’s Alba Madonna was highlighted, as was Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci. As we listened to a lecture on Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait, I decided to look at the glossy brochure in my hand pointing out the museum highlights (pdf version here.) I scanned the pictures of the twelve paintings and their descriptions, and then read the names of the artists. To my surprise, and I am not sure why I was surprised, not a single painting on the museum’s highlights tour was painted by a woman. I pointed this out to our guide, a woman, and she said that was unfortunate, but really didn’t seem that upset.

I looked around and noticed the museum was teeming with students. My cousin commented that she wanted to bring her granddaughter, a budding artist, to the museum. But what message would she and the hundreds of girls I saw wandering the halls of the National Gallery of Art take from the experience? Women make great subjects but are lousy painters. What other message is there?

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