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In English
A Museum of Women's History
History is more than ”His Story”
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History is more than ”His Story” 

by Vilma Bergman, founder of The Dea Society of Women's Museums

If you are interested in women artists and want to see their works, there is usually no point in looking for them in the magnificent rooms of our museums. No, you will find them in the smallest and darkest rooms, especially if you search over doorways and similar places.

That is the situation in most Swedish museums of today, no matter what kind of museum you visit. The human being of museums is merely a man, not a woman, and only the works of men are put in the centre of attention. When women are allowed to participate, it is as an appendage to men. The farmer and his wife, the warrior, the fisherman, the craftsman and so on - and his wife! But by putting only men and their culture in the limelight, museums give a false picture of reality. The truth is that culture in Sweden concerns us women at least as much as men. It is also created by women as much as by men.

What were women doing while men were creating culture?
Being a woman in Sweden is considered enviable by people all around the world. Surely Sweden is the leading country when it comes to equality between the sexes? But we women are remarkably invisible in Swedish cultural life. Our working life is seldom portrayed in museums, we are not mentioned in the history books, our works of art are not shown and
our music is not heard.

Sewing Needles versus Viking Ships
Men's tools - boats, ploughs and weapons - are of course much more palpable than our tools, since sewing needles do not take up much space and since the result of our work is not that lasting. The food is eaten and the clothes are worn out. Bringing up children and caring for the sick and the old are also activities which are not tangible. Nevertheless, they make up a large part of our lives and they make great demands on every woman. Besides, we do so much more than that. We participate in all areas of social and cultural life.

Hidden Messages
There are many hidden messages in our museums. For instance, museums gladly show the old guild system of the 18th and 19th centuries. This system is usually described in a quite idealized and idyllic way. But those days were anything but idyllic to women! What our museums fail to show is that the idyll conceals a glaring injustice, namely the fact that under the guild system men barred women from practically all jobs in trade and crafts. Women were excluded from most kinds of jobs at the same time as a very strict obligation to work was enforced. There was only one kind of work open to women and that was domestic work. Moreover, there was often not enough of it to go around. A woman who could not prove that she had an employment as a servant-maid was considered a vagrant and was put in a “spinning-house” and had to do forced labour of different kind such as empty the town's latrine vessels by way of punishment.

Museums of all kinds...
Museums are places where our history is supposed to be described and interpreted. It is of great importance what museums put the spotlight on and what they let fall into oblivion.They send messages about what has been considered important and about what persons have achieved something out of the ordinary. Together these museum exhibits from our cultural heritage.

What's all That Rumble?
Annually thousands of millions of our tax money are transferred to Swedish museums. Of course this money is meant to illustrate both women's and men's contributions to our cultural heritage. And as a matter of fact the majority of Sweden's population are women, most museum employees are women (bosses excepted) and so are most visitors to museums. But we women miss out on the main part of public cultural funds.

Many women who take part in the cultural life of Sweden are not pleased with this state of things. There is discontent brewing among the rank and file. It concerns us all how our museums use their funds.

Women politicians
It is a well-known fact that both women and men pay taxes. Consequently, it is not fair that practically all public cultural funds are sacrificed on the altar of men's culture. Fortunately, Sweden nowadays has a fairly large number of women politicians to look after women's interests.

Dea means goddess
In order to further women's culture, The Dea Society for Women's Museums was founded in April, 1994.The history of women is yet to be written. The members of The Dea Society, demand that a special museum for women's culture has to be founded. That would make women's culture more visible and surely, the cultural heritage as such would grow when women's contributions are added.

Research and exhibits
However, there is a problem. Even if the museums are willing to exhibit women's culture, there is a lack of research in this area. It takes a specialized museum of women's culture to change this, a museum where facts on women philosophers, women scientists, women sovereigns and so on can be saved for the future. Such a museum will arouse international interest, since lack of research into women's culture is a worldwide phenomenon.

Women - the Majority of Europe
In 1998 Stockholm became The Cultural Capital of Europe. At an early stage, The Dea Society suggested that the main theme of this cultural year should be ”The European Woman”. That would reinforce the image of Sweden as the most equal country in the world. Moreover, the majority of the European population are women! Unfortunately, Sweden let this opportunity escape and The Dea Society is now considering handing over this concept to some other country. Perhaps Finland or Iceland will realise the momentum of this theme in the year 2000! 



Uppdaterat 2010-05-14
Dea-föreningen för Kvinnohistoriskt museum • info@dea-kvinnomuseer.nu • Bankgiro: 5766-3593.
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