Function and future of this museum
Before we get to the main
I sent this proposal (with a few later additions) to
the president of
The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research,
Dr. Chris Bobel, chair of women's studies,
University of Massachusetts, Boston,
in 2014 to be distributed to the
It might apply to YOU:
Would you like to create a
museum of menstruation?
I, Harry Finley, if necessary will remove myself from the effort
to make the museum real (not virtual, as at mum.org) and to take any part in running it - again, if necessary. Two reasons: I
must devote more time to earning a living – I'm 73 and need more income; and I know that a male's
involvement – this male's especially – lessens
the chance that the physical museum will become
reality (there's a name for that).
So, maybe a group of interested women could create a
nonprofit and work to make a place for the archives
(around 4000-5000 items) I own under under the
conditions discussed below. The essential conditions
are (1) permanently open to the public of a (2)
substantial display of artifacts related to the
history of menstruation (3) in a place with substantial population and/or tourist exposure. The housing must meet
recognized museum standards, and the housing entity
must demonstrate financial stability. The essential conditions must be legally binding.
A great possible would be the creation of a
substantial permanent display of a worldwide history
of menstruation in an existing museum or other
building, perhaps as a section of a women's history
museum. Several women visitors to my house museum
suggested a renovated house. Maybe it could include
a history of contraception or childbirth. Of course
a history of women's health in general would be
terrific but that's a huge project. There are many
If I can be of help on a long-distance basis - I
can't afford to travel - I will. Maybe my experience
with the first museum of menstruation would be
useful. I will help financially if I am ever
In the meantime I retain ownership of mum.org and of
the MUM archives. If a new venue proves to be the
best home, I'll be happy to donate the archives and
very likely mum.org, which badly needs a redesign of
its more than 3000 pages, plus a search engine on all pages,
which Google removed when it kicked this museum out
of its ad program (then reactivated the engine years later) because it deemed this site family
unfriendly. And the archives need protection
from the moisture, mold, handling, and oxygen that
have already damaged them. It needs to be
inventoried; my earlier partial inventory was lost through
software obsolescence and hard drive failure. I don't have the money for
any of this. I must see any offers in person. It'll be
my decision. Otherwise, at my death the museum
archives go to the Powerhouse, Australia's largest
museum. Failing that, to a museum outside the Americas. The United States needs such a museum but so far hasn't deserved it. Asking permission to peek at backroom archives is not the way to go.
See the original Museum of Menstruation
Purpose of this
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
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
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
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.
The museum should be in its own building, freely
accessible, and free to anyone during regular visiting
The displays in the
museum will be of three kinds:
at least one actual menstrual hut (and let's let
visitors actually sit in it!), history of
advertising, customs, objects associated with
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!!)
Archive and library
Meeting rooms and auditorium for local women's
groups and performances.
Where will the
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
I live in the Washington, D.C., area, which has all of
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
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
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
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
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
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.
original museum in my house.