The Women’s Museum in Dallas’ gorgeous art-deco Fair Park is set to close at the end of October. I’ve been there many times over the years, almost always for a good cause–a breast cancer fundraiser, a pro-choice film screening and crazily enough, sometimes just to learn something.
It’s closing at the end of October, reports the Dallas Morning News. Basically, it’s a financial issue with the museum struggling to stay afloat. Which is terribly sad, because I guess I like to think some things are so valuable–say, writing histories that include women and de-center the white, male experience–that you can’t put a price tag on them. That even if a handful of people ever see the thing, the world is still a better place. But I suppose that’s idealistic. From the DMN:
The museum reported a deficit in 2007 of nearly $600,000, and that shortfall doubled the next year, according to tax records. In 2009, the latest year for which records are available, the museum reported a $1.3 million deficit, after $2.6 million in expenses.
The museum’s largest expenses have been salaries and the upkeep of one of Fair Park’s oldest buildings.
“We’ve done what we can to shave expenses to continue to make the maximum impacts,” Curry said.
This year, the museum had been “paying all its bills and managing its budget” as its cash flow became steadier, Minyard said, but the board believed it was in the nonprofit’s best interest to shift gears.
Sorry, $1.3 million dollars? In Dallas? We’re shutting down the Women’s Museum over $1.3 million dollars? Get the fuck out of town. Mark Cuban’s net worth is $2.5 billion dollars. Don’t even get me started on the Perot family fortune. You’re telling me that, say, the Schlegel family can’t spare some pocket change for the ladies?
Look, no matter what gets done with that building, there will be upkeep costs. The Women’s Museum is the only Smithsonian-affiliated institution in the whole state. The collection was small, and certainly there were improvements to be made in terms of representations of race and class and choice, but damn, y’all. Attendance at the Women’s Museum is never going to improve if we treat the Women’s Museum like it’s an expendable extra because of a measly $1.3 million deficit. Patrons aren’t going to fork over their hard-earned-by-someone-generations-ago cash for something that people kind of shrug over because oh well, it’s just a women’s museum, after all.
I guess it’s a catch-22 — you need a women’s museum to educate and inform people about women’s unique and important histories and struggles, but unless people are educated and informed about women’s unique and important histories and struggles, people will continue to figure that oh well, we can probably just subsume women’s history into the real history museums, so whatever, we’ll just have to close it, which people may view as somewhat sad but ultimately not that big of a deal.
But I think it is a big deal. I think it’s important to make spaces where marginalized experiences are central, not peripheral, to the “whole” or “real” or “big” story. Not supplemental to the story, relegated to some special hall or exhibit, but placed on their own. Not tangential to the canon, but canon in their own right.