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National Women's History Museum Seeks Ph.D. (UPDATE)

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WASHINGTON -- Better late than never.

Days after a Huffington Post investigation revealed a host of problems at the nascent National Women's History Museum -- including a paucity of academic legitimacy -- the president of the organization is looking around for a director of education.

According to an email sent Thursday to members of a newly named scholars committee and other women's historians, NWHM President Joan Wages said the museum was posting a "job description for a Director of Education and it dawned on us that you may [know] someone to fill this very important position.

"We are looking for a Ph.D. in women's history or studies who has web educational program experience. This person will coordinate with you in developing NWHM program," wrote Wages, whose museum has until recently all but ignored the input of highly credentialed academics.

The job appears to be new, judging from a 2012 draft budget obtained by HuffPost earlier this year, which outlined all the current staff positions for which the museum intended to pay salaries in 2012, including a development assistant and a project manager. No "director of education" was mentioned.

Other museum-building efforts do employ educational directors. For instance, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which broke ground on the National Mall this year, has Esther Washington, a specialist in K-12 object-based education.

Wages' email was forwarded to HuffPost by one of 22 recipients, who asked to speak on background for fear of professional reprisal from the NWHM president. The source expressed frustration that the museum was just now seeking to fill such a central position after 16 years of operation.

"'It dawned on us!' What sort of professional organization works that way?" this person wrote. "This advisory should have been sent out long ago, as a proposal, not as a fait accompli, along with a request for drafting the job description. It's typical of Joan's personalized management style to think about 'who,' not 'what.'"

Reached for comment, Wages said, "Over the last several weeks, I consulted with several scholars of women's history and determined to modify the job description of the position of Director of Education by requiring a Ph.D. in women's history or women's studies and web education program experience." She added that the museum welcomes "all qualified applicants."

Wages said a job description had originally been posted in February, but when HuffPost asked where it was posted in order to confirm this, she declined to respond.

Earlier this week, HuffPost reported, based on interviews with NWHM staff, board members and advisers, that museum organizers "have developed little in the way of educational programming or connections within the academic community that would help them realize their goal." Organizers have made misleading claims about the content of the museum's website and have not shared with the public the museum's few, but in some cases very valuable, historical artifacts.

The museum's website contained articles on seemingly random topics, everything from female spies to women who have appeared on postage stamps. Wages told HuffPost that staff members pick topics, which they or, more often, interns research and write; the interns receive $5 an hour and academic credit.

Actress Meryl Streep, the museum's most visible supporter, told HuffPost that she was "hopeful, and I have full confidence that the board will act swiftly, but carefully, to remediate whatever problems have been uncovered."

UPDATE: April 13, 4:15 p.m. -- In answer to HuffPost's request on Thursday for confirmation that the National Women's History Museum placed a job listing in February (and after HuffPost's attempts to locate the ad turned up no listings), NWHM President Joan Wages emailed a response Friday afternoon. "The Education Director job description was posted on February 14, 2012 on the website of the American Association of Museums," she wrote. Wages also attached an email receipt for $250 for a single, 30-day job posting.

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