Interview with Maria Perstedt, Director Museum of Women’s History, Umeå, Sweden

Maria Perstedt is Museum Director and Head of the Museum of Women’s History in Umeå, Sweden’s first of its kind. Maria Perstedt is a cultural historian and a dedicated and passionate museum professional with more than 25 years of occupational experience from several different Swedish museums of cultural history, on local, regional and government level – the Museum of Medical History and the National Historical Museum, among others.
Museum of Women’s History, Umeå, Sweden  http://www.kvinnohistoriskt.se/4.1ba1eb9814afeb38cc9acfb.html

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Women’s Museum Istanbul:  Can you please tell us something about the male dominated filter in history that affects museums?

Maria Perstedt: A modern approach when it comes to museums is about allowing men and women to have equal spaces in society and equal possibilities to be heard. The traditional way of telling history does not offer these spaces or possibilities. The approach to telling history is male dominated. There is a male filter. Imagine you hold a flashlight and you look for men, you search – and you find men, but you do not see what is surrounding them. But if you point the flashlight in a different direction, all of a sudden you find that there are so many women out there.

At least half of the population of the world at all times and in all places has been women. And this you cannot tell from most traditional museums. To bring about a change, to allow women’s voices to be heard, women’s experiences to be acknowledged, women’s memories to be visible, we need women’s museums. Imagine history like a lake, and on the surface there are only men. They are sitting there on the surface, glittering and shining in their own light. And sometimes a woman emerges to the surface. She is only there for a short while before she sinks back down into the sediment, where she is forgotten while the surface stays the same. It is very hard work to make those women stick, to make those women stay on the surface and give them recognition, give them a voice, make them visible, make them stay in traditional history. By giving them a space equal to that of men, to make their voices be heard just like men’s, we must break through this male filter. History has always been the product of both men and women, and that is what we have to display. As long as traditional museums do not tackle this task, there is a need for women’s museums.


Hopefully, some day, we might not need to distinguish between different museums any longer. I hope for a future where museums make use of their traditional societal role (to act as “showcases” in order to make visible stereotypes and norms) as an advanced leveraging tool. Museums that take upon themselves to mirror that all societies are made up of people of different kinds; of different gender, sexual identities and sexual expression, of different colour, ethnicity, class and functionality, can facilitate social change and actively contribute to society´s never ending development.

Throughout my career as a museum professional, I have actively involved myself in issues of history, identity and power, focusing on traditional historiography and its ideological consequences in contemporary society. In my opinion, the societal role of museums is to facilitate social change and strengthen the principles of human rights and democracy.

Interview: Kristina Kraemer, Gül Aydın

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