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Building a Museum Working Women Can Call Their Own: Katherine Honey

Intrigued by the notion that many women do well in math and science in high school yet do not pursue those fields in college, Katherine Honey did some digging.

The unsettling discovery of photos only depicting career women listening and serving led Honey, 61, to do something big about changing the continued stereotypes of women in the workplace. She created the Women at Work Museum in Attleboro, Massachusetts, which honors the achievements of women and provides educational programs that promote leadership, economic independence, and careers in math, science, engineering, and technology.

“Men and women have the same stereotypical attitudes about women and their abilities, and that comes from our experiences and common culture,” says Honey, who has been president of the museum since it opened in 2003. “Part of the goal of the museum is to break down differences.” In just two years, five major exhibits and 35 events showcasing women’s accomplishments have been hosted at the museum supporting that vision.

Open on Saturdays only, more than three thousand individuals have visited the museum to date. With the launch of the museum’s website, and the presentation of engaging events such as the Clara Barton Thank You Tea, the Dream it! Design it! program, and the opening of the Women in Transport exhibit, Honey anticipates that visitors will exceed five thousand this year.

“My contribution to the success of the museum is directly related to my ability to communicate, collaborate, plan, manage, market, develop educational programs, match projects with qualified volunteers, foster collaborative relationships, and to use electronic devices and systems,” says Honey, whose biggest challenge is pacing herself and the museum’s growth over the next five years. “These skills have been developed over the past forty years in my work as a classroom teacher, business owner, and community activist.”

Currently on tap is a major fundraising initiative. “The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $250,000 now, with a total of three million dollars raised by the end of 2008,” says Honey. Funds will be used to create a library, an exhibit space, an area for business meetings and educational programs, and a performance and conference center with seating for 450 people. Given the museum’s mission, the center will boast the latest technology, including video conferencing to support mentoring efforts for school-age students, communication with organizations around the world for museum partnerships, and the development of expertise in math, science, engineering, and technology for a multicultural audience of all ages.

“I am working to ensure that the museum will have a variety of revenue sources including grants, fundraising events, personal and organizational development programs, and original products with limited availability,” says Honey. The museum’s first product is a note card that incorporates an original paper illustration created for the “Women Who Fly” exhibit by Jennifer DeDonato.

“People are very excited about what we have accomplished and want to help increase the museum’s visibility and initiate fundraising efforts,” says Honey. “We are ready to move this incredible institution to a world wide arena.”