Interesting news for women’s museums: ICOM is preparing an issue of Museum International on the theme Museums and Gender.
This issue of Museum International aims to generate serious reflection on gender issues in museums, how they are intertwined, and the role of museums in a world prioritising gender equality. Issues of gender impact every layer of museum practice, from governance to visitation. This issue focuses on gender representation within museum management, operations and trusteeship, as well as in collections, exhibitions, education and public programmes.
As the social construction and politics of gender vary between societies, issues of gender and sexuality within institutions are as broad as they are specific. Questions around whose objects and stories are being preserved and promoted, and from what perspective, are as much of a concern to history, culture and living museums as to science and natural history museums. A reflexive examination of the role cultural and heritage institutions play in understanding gender as well as how they manage their own gendered construction is overdue. Can museums lead the way in terms of institutional change on issues of gender equality?
Museums are envisaged as guardians of the past, educators/entertainers of the present, arbiters of the future. From the lack of female artists, to carefully stored away imagery of powerful goddesses and intersex beings, some museums have maintained an imperial model of cultural values embedded in the origins of most early collecting and display. Others are challenging this system of stereotypes and phobias to better represent a more inclusive history. Addressing this inherent gender bias in museums requires great effort on the part of the museum sector as a whole.