Starting next year, the new museum, History of Women Stockholm, will start spreading knowledge through women’s history exhibitions, book clubs, movie screenings, salons, walks and research discussions. To do this, they are currently collecting enough literature for a library of the history of women. Our Swedish branch, I Bokhandeln, spoke to Lina Thomsgård who is head of the museum.
Why do we need this library?
We want to provide literature to artists, researchers, producers and educators who wants to collaborate with us, for inspiration, to deepen their knowledge and give them grounds for ideas. Through collecting literature about women, women’s movements and questions through different eras, in different parts of the world, we can also preserve important books that otherwise would just be collecting dust on book shelves around Sweden. The goal is to turn this knowledge into relevant business, so that more people can take part in it.
How will you be financing this project?
This is a non-profit part of our organization so far, the books are donated and then maybe my mother will have to help organize them in some reasonable way. As we grow we’ll see what support and potential partners there are, and in what way we’re going to work.
What types of books have you collected so far — are there any that stand out?
Our chairman, Gunilla Thorgren, has promised to bring in a giant box of Group 8’s old Women’s Bulletins, and the daughter of a history professor reached out to us with his old treasures. Just now, Bok för Alla and the comic publishers Galago was here and donated a huge pile of comics. I also, a couple of years ago, bought several boxes of books from a lovely old lady who ran a women’s bookstore in Stockholm. These gems will of course act as the backbone of our little library.
What books are you hoping to collect?
A wide variety of perspectives and knowledge. There’s more to the history of women than role models and the battle of voting rights — women have come together all over the world. Think about it: what if we can bring books together and make connections between eras, ages and geographical locations — in new ways? The dream would be to receive books written in other languages than Swedish, since our target audience won’t always be Swedish-speaking.
What type of response have you received from this initiative?
Today in particular there have been people knocking on my door constantly, to donate — and I’ve already heard from people who want to visit the library and read the books. So nice!
What can visitors expect?
We want to gather books of different kinds and perspectives, there’s not just one way to look at women’s history. A rich, inspiring group of tales that unfolds the world history in a new way, that puts women of history on the map, and that highlights the role of women in the building of society up until today. Not all of women’s history — or all of women’s fates — have been pleasant or homiletic, which makes them all the more important to include. What would happen in the world of museums if we avoided the unpleasant? What would happen if we became too selective; if we started to bury what unsettled us or made us uncomfortable? The history of women has hardly been pleasant, and our mission is to make the research available, to put the knowledge into context.
Our ambition is that, in the future, the library could act as more of an interactive book club in which you can share thoughts and reactions from previous readers of specifically the book you are currently reading, and have a conversation with them.
Who will benefit from the library?
Our collaborators, who will work with us and shape the business of the library — but hopes are that the general public, the avid readers and the student groups, will become curious and take part of the library in some way. But let’s start with gathering the greatness.
When are you expecting to get started and open up to the public?
I’ll have to get back to you on that, right now we’re busy putting up shelves.
Tell us a little bit about the basement vault?
We’re located in historical premises by Slussen, where the silk weavers of the 19th century worked. We have a large conference room with absolutely impossible acoustics, where books are going to cover the walls.
Can you recommend us three books?
No, but how about three hundred?