Smithsonian Exhibition Amplifying Role of Girls in History Is Hitting the Road
“Girlhood (It’s complicated)” is leaving the National Mall in Washington, DC, and will travel to four museums during a nearly two-year national tour:
- Minnetrista Museum & Gardens, Muncie, Indiana—June 3–Sept. 17
- Cincinnati Museum Center, a Smithsonian Affiliate—Oct. 12–Jan. 14, 2024
- South Carolina State Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate in Columbia—Feb. 3, 2024–Aug. 11, 2024
- Minnesota History Center, St. Paul—Aug. 31, 2024–March 16, 2025
Developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), “Girlhood” originally opened at the museum during the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and was on view Oct. 9, 2020–Jan. 2, 2022. The exhibition was supported by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, the precursor of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.
“Girlhood” explores the diversity of girls’ experiences over more than 200 years and through approximately 200 objects. The exhibition examines the ways American girls, from Minnijean Brown to Naomi Wadler, have spoken up, challenged expectations and used their voices to effect change. Among the highlights are a makeup table from 1820, a 1900s gym suit, a 1958 dress worn by Brown, one of the Little Rock Nine, and 2018 knit scarf worn by Wadler when she spoke at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.
“Girlhood” looks at how girls have changed history in five areas: news and politics (Girls on the Front Lines of Change), education (Being Schooled), work (Hey, Where’s My Girlhood?), wellness (Body Talk) and fashion (Girl’s Remix). Some of the stories highlighted include the Girl Scout experience, girls in sports including skateboarder Cindy Whitehead and the impact of Title IX on girl’s athletics, and Veronica Mendez’s Quinceañera, or 15th birthday coming-of-age ceremony.
The exhibition design is inspired by magazines and zines (self-published magazines) that have been written for and by girls. It features custom wall-sized murals and illustrations by artist Krystal Quiles based on historic photos. Among the eight exhibition videos are an animated entrance experience, a makeup video, footage of historic student-led school walkouts and a compilation of U.S. government-produced sex education films from 1919 to 1957.
About the National Museum of American History
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History seeks to empower people to create a more just and compassionate future by examining, preserving and sharing the complexity of our past. For more information, visit americanhistory.si.edu.
SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations are critical national outreach units at the Smithsonian Institution. For more than 70 years, SITES has been connecting Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history. Smithsonian Affiliations establishes and maintains the Smithsonian’s long-term partnerships with museums, educational organizations and cultural institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Panama. Together, SITES and Affiliations share the Smithsonian's vast resources with millions of people outside Washington, D.C. Visit sites.si.edu and affiliations.si.edu for more information.
About the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum
The Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum advances the understanding of women’s contributions to various fields throughout history that have influenced the direction of the United States. The museum collaborates with other museums and educational institutions to expand scholarly research, public programs, digital content, collections and more to recognize diverse perspectives on women’s history and contributions. The legislation creating the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum passed Dec. 27, 2020. Connect with the museum at womenshistory.si.edu.
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