When Lisa Sasaki ’97 was tapped in March 2021 to serve as interim director of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum, she knew she was taking on a daunting task.
The job was, as she puts it: “to build a museum that’s going to be around for as long as there’s an America.”
Of course, planning any museum from the ground up—not to mention one that will stand among the iconic Smithsonian institutions on and around the National Mall in Washington, D.C.—is a long and involved endeavor.
“It’s not a quick process; it’s one you have to be very, very thoughtful about,” says Sasaki, who had spent the previous five years as director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. (She will assume a different role with the Smithsonian once a founding director is named for the women's museum.)
Though the museum was established through legislation enacted by Congress in December 2020, Sasaki estimates it will be at least a decade before it’s constructed, filled, and open to visitors.
In the meantime, Sasaki is working to fulfill the initial guidelines for the museum set forth by Congress, which declared the creation of an institution devoted to women’s contributions as “necessary to more accurately depict the history of the United States,” given that “historical accounts, monuments, memorials, and museums disproportionately represent men’s achievements and contributions and often neglect those of women.”
“Museums are ultimately storytellers,” observes Sasaki, a Colorado native. “And in the past, only certain stories were told.”