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Purpose

Until the museum finds a brick-and-mortar home, most or all of the following also applies to the online museum, which you're now looking at.

The main interest of the museum is to permanently display to the public - the important word is "public" - items showing the history of woman's health and of the culture of menstruation. Scholars will be able to see material not on display. It is not designed for people in the "professional" menstruation community, such as activists, but for the average person, male and female, people whose strongest feeling about menstruation is usually negative. 

Think of people who visit the Smithsonian Institution. It should be designed for them.

It will not be a "feel-good" museum, but one showing the facts, pleasant and unpleasant.

The menstruation section of the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health is intended to be the world's repository for information about, and "showcase" for, menstruation, including as many cultures as possible.

This would include collecting and displaying, when possible, stories, customs, and artifacts, and conducting education about menstruation.

Menstrual education would take the form of museum tours, visits to schools and other organizations, this Web site, and compact disks and paper publications.

The museum as a whole will show the historical development of the relationship between medicine and women for as many of the cultures of the world as possible, in addition to a history of menstruation.

Education would take the forms mentioned above.


In case I die before the museum is located in a permanent public exhibit in the U.S.A., everything (roughly 4000 items, some unique) goes to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, Australia's largest. The curator of medicine there, Megan Hicks (see and read about her), visited me in October of 2000 and told me about her success in creating a traveling history of contraception that toured Australia; I feel the museum would be in good hands.


Future

The museum should be in its own building, freely accessible, and free to anyone during regular visiting hours.

The displays in the museum will be of three kinds:

Menstruation, including at least one actual menstrual hut (and let's let visitors actually sit in it!), history of advertising, customs, objects associated with menstruation, etc.

The general history of the relationship between women and medicine

Current topics of women's health, which could change quickly - weekly? - to address important topics such as estrogen supplements, breast cancer, etc.

I envision the following sections:

Displays, which would occupy the bulk of the museum's space

Bookstore and gift shop (I read a museum study that concluded that museum visitors, after a month or two, most vividly remembered the gift shop!!)

Café with garden - and German pastry!

Archive and library

Meeting rooms and auditorium for local women's groups and performances.

Where will the museum be?

First, it should not be in the house of an old bachelor - my house, where it is now (or was; it closed August 1998, partly because of this very issue).

In the summer of 1998 a married couple from England, visitors to Washington, arranged to see MUM one Saturday afternoon. At the time I expected them I received a phone call from the taxi driver carrying them.

"We drove to the address you gave, but there's no museum, just a house."

I assured them them they were at the right place, since MUM is in my house.

And that was the last I ever heard from them.

After the museum visitors left, I called the concierge of the hotel where the couple was staying - she had called me to arrange the visit in the first place - and she confirmed what I had suspected: they were frightened by the thought of visiting a museum in somebody's house. Especially when the subject is menstruation.

I think it should be in a high-tourist area, easy to get to, and should be in a city with museums and educational institutions.

I live in the Washington, D.C., area, which has all of these characteristics.

Some thoughts about the museum

The museum should be comfortable, allowing people to sit and talk among the exhibits. In the present museum, in my house, I have witnessed silent visitors, strangers to one another, start talking among themselves about menstruation and other difficult topics. I know this will happen in the future museum, and it's for the better.

There should be a logic to the exhibits, not just an accumulation of curiosities. One exhibit should lead to the next.

And maybe the museum should have tours addressing different levels of interest: one lasting 20 minutes, for example, another 40, and the grand tour. Why bore visitors?

Problems

The creator and current director of the museum, Harry Finley - that's me - will not be the museum director unless it's a transitional job to a permanent director. Someone younger must do it. But I would like to help design and run it somehow and want to sit on the board as the founder.

But read what I wrote when I wanted to be the director:

Some have objected to this [Harry Finley as director], noting that I only have a B.A. in an unrelated field (philosophy).

Directors of nonprofit organizations - and MUM is not yet a nonprofit - are often not subject-matter experts, although I do have a wide range of information about menstruation, and I have had the vision to create a small version of the future museum and this Web site, and to make myself the target on the public firing range, where I have been absorbing bullets since 1994, when I started the museum.

Consider Sara Jane Bloomfield, the new (1999) director of the "perpetually packed" (Washington Post) U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Her highest degree is a B.A. (in English literature). She is not a Holocaust scholar and has no academic background in Holocaust studies, although she has read widely in the field, according to a 26 February 1999 Washington Post story. And she's never published any scholarly articles.

And Dr. Iris Prager, manager of North American education for Tampax tampons, e-mailed me in November 2000 when I was preparing for a television debate, writing,
"You don't have to actually experience menstruation to understand how it works physiologically or to educate about it."
She was president-elect of the American Association for Health Education at the time she wrote.

Several people have suggested that the museum go to a medical school. I think that this would guarantee that few people would see it, and the public comes first in the museum.

And besides, menstruation has little to do with medicine, being largely a cultural subject. It's as if a museum of hair styles should be in a medical school; both hair and menstruation have physical origins, but both are largely nonmedical topics.

The body is not medicine. Medicine studies the disorders of the body; menstruation is not a disorder.

I'd like to hear your ideas. I'll be putting more of my own here.

Board of Advisors
homepage | MUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor (olor)| pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | religion | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
© 1998, 2006 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to hfinley@mum.org