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Committee to advise on representation of women in the national collection

Director of the National Gallery of Ireland Caroline Campbell; Ciara McHugh, National Women's Council; Minister Catherine Martin; director of Gender Studies UCD Dr Mary McAuliffe; and Lynn Scarff, director of the National Museum of Ireland, at an event in the National Gallery of Ireland. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A committee to advise on the representation of women and their stories within the collections of the national cultural institutions is to be established by Minister for Culture Catherine Martin.

The committee is to recommend actions that show how the national collection can be used to showcase the achievements of women, which can be highlighted by showcases in or between the cultural institutions.

The committee is to identify best practice models to support the cultural institutions in representing women’s stories. It will also consider the possibility of creating a dedicated presentation of women’s stories through “a reimagining of the national collection” or the creation of a new national women’s museum.

Announcing the move, Ms Martin noted the work and support of the Women’s Museum Advocacy Group in bringing forward proposals for the committee.

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Ms Martin said the “announcement underscores my commitment to ensuring that the contributions of women continue to be recognised and, indeed, celebrated in our culture”.

“This committee will seek to identify any gender imbalances both within our national cultural institutions and our national collection. It will also explore the possibility of creating a stand-alone presentation dedicated to women’s stories, including a women’s museum.”

She told reporters the voices of historically marginalised women were to be brought to the fore.

“I believe this initiative can be a vehicle for conversation within Irish society about how we record and represent the stories of women in our history, and the impact that underrepresentation has on how we see ourselves at both an individual and societal level,” the Minister said.

The membership of the committee has not yet been appointed, but it will include representation from the national cultural institutions; the wider museum, archive and gallery sector; those with equity, diversity and inclusion expertise such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland; and relevant Government departments and State bodies.

Ms Martin said it would be “at least a month” before the membership of the committee was settled.

Prof Mary McAuliffe, director of gender studies at University College Dublin, and an advocate for the establishment of a national women’s museum, said such an institution would tell of women’s experiences and lives and would be invaluable to all who “value, cherish and celebrate” women’s history.

She thanked Ms Martin and her department “for all their support in this process and we are very excited that it has come to this point with the formation of an expert advisory committee”, which she said was “a very vital first step”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist