A Vibrant Encounter Space Online: The International Museum of Women
The International Museum of Women is an innovative “new media” approach that utilizes women’s creative powers as a bridge for activism.
New strategies to engage and motivate people to action are hard to come by in this fast paced, sound byte, tweeting world of new media, but the International Museum of Women (IMOW) is definitely on to something. IMOW found a way to inspire global action using the arts as the entry point.
Launched in 1997-98, the museum went virtual in 2005. Envisioned as a “social change” museum, its presence provides creative space for art to build a bridge to activism. The exhibitions call viewers to action and connect people worldwide. An international focus and commitment to building community and amplifying women’s voices are palpable throughout the website.
Such online exhibits as “Women, Power and Politics,” “Imagining Ourselves” and “Economica: Women and the Global Economy” welcome all comers to “join the conversation” by submitting art, writing, photography, journalism, or other creative works to a specific exhibit space. For example, “Economica” suggests participating by first exploring the themes and displays and then contributing submissions that speak to such questions as “how has the economic downturn affected you” or “what barriers do women still face.” Selected “voices” are highlighted and shared. Women and girls from all walks of life are able to interact, comment and respond to the rich flow of information and collaborative art.
“The power of the museum,” says IMOW Executive Director Clare Winterton, “is that we create a unique space where we can re-imagine the world through women’s eyes.” The creative work is designed to build, she adds, both a “dynamic, new global conversation” and “a compelling springboard to activism.”
The museum’s work of advancing gender equality worldwide is supported by its Global Council of Women Advisers. Joining IMOW Board Chair and founder Elizabeth Colton on the council is a diverse group of leaders and human rights activists from around the world—such women, to name a few, as Beatriz Merino, national ombudsman of Peru; Patricia Licuanan, president of Miriam College in Manila; Aminatta Forna, an author and former broadcast journalist who lives both in London and Sierra Leone; and Rajaa H. Dhaher Al-Khuzai, a physician and former member of the Iraqi National Assembly.
At the heart of IMOW’s mission is to engage and stimulate viewers to action. Museum staff members measure the impact of various exhibits with online surveys and in depth interviews. They found that 73 percent of visitors to “Imagining Ourselves” (2007) reported three or more personal changes—in attitudes, opinions or aspirations—as a result of engaging with the exhibit. Two-thirds of visitors to “Women, Power & Politics” (2008) reported intensified attention to global women’s issues; and 40 percent were inspired to take personal steps to achieve gender equity.
Whether one reads a particularly intriguing woman’s story or explores an artistic expression in video or paint, the IMOW captures the imagination of those lucky enough to click through its site and get involved in the challenges of making this world—our world—a better place, one woman at a time.
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