The Discovery Center is the next stop for this critically acclaimed exhibition that
explores the arc of human reproduction through design and art.
SEATTLE (January 18, 2023) – The Bill & Melinda Gates Discovery Center announces
its next exhibition, Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our
Births, opening on February 16, 2023 and on view through December 30, 2023.
Organized by design historians, birth advocates, and medical and midwifery
history experts, Designing Motherhood explores the arc of human reproduction
through the lens of design and art from the 19th century to the present day.
Aiming to examine traditionally gendered narratives of parenthood, as well as
racial and socio-economic disparities in access to care, Designing Motherhood
features over 200 objects and centers experiences of (in)fertility, pregnancy,
postpartum, and parenthood. The exhibition also demonstrates the evolution of
rights and societal norms pertaining to con(tra)ception, pregnancy, birth, and
postpartum experiences over the last 150 years, highlighting that birth—and the
material culture that surrounds it—impacts every living person.
“This project examines one of the most fundamental experiences in life—being
born. We started the Designing Motherhood project in 2017 to confront the large
gap around this topic in the collections and classrooms where we work, as well as
in culture more broadly,” said the Designing Motherhood curatorial team.
“Motherhood is not just a ‘women’s issue.’ This exhibition is for everyone because
we’re all born and thus all shaped by these things that ‘make and break our
“We are excited to bring this exhibition to the Gates Foundation Discovery Center
and to our region,” said Charlotte Beall, Deputy Director for the Discovery Center.
“I am looking forward to expanding the conversation beyond the US with the
inclusion of global objects, innovations, stories, and programming that reflect the
Gates Foundation’s strategic focus on maternal, newborn, and child health and
The exhibition originated in Philadelphia at the Mütter Museum and the Center for
Architecture and Design where the curatorial team partnered for three years with
the pioneering Maternity Care Coalition, who have worked since 1980 to empower
families navigating reproductive health, pregnancy, and early childhood in that
city. The exhibition was most recently on view in Boston at the MassArt Art
Museum (MAAM) where the local partner was the Neighborhood Birth Center.
“The objects in the exhibition tell complex, rich, and important stories that impact
each one of us,” said Sarah Bloom, the Gates Foundation Discovery Center’s
curator of exhibitions. “We will also highlight the incredible communities we have
right here in the Seattle region that have contributed to developments and
innovation in culturally responsive care and design. I’m excited to have this
exhibition on view for a year, giving us the opportunity to connect more deeply
with the Seattle community and our visitors on all facets of our lives that the show
The Designing Motherhood book, a 344-page volume published by the MIT Press
in 2021, accompanies the exhibition.
Connect with the Discovery Center @discovergates on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Follow the Designing Motherhood project on Instagram @designingmotherhood.
This exhibition was organized by the Designing Motherhood curatorial team in
collaboration with the Discovery Center at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In Seattle, the project thought partners are the Designing Motherhood advisory
committee: Amie Bishop, Senior Research Advisor for OutRight Action International;
Angela Garbes, Seattle-based writer and author of Like A Mother (2018); Ari Robbins
Greene, proud dad to two children; Dr. Cyril Engmann, Senior Director of Quality and
Program Impact and Institutional Official at PATH; Dila Perera, Executive Director at Open
Arms Perinatal Services; Mercedes Snyder, owner of Something Beautiful Midwifery; and
Rebecca Mauldin, Director of Communications & Development at ChildStrive.
In Philadelphia, the project’s thought partner was Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) who
ensure families can birth with dignity, parent with autonomy, and raise babies who are
healthy, growing, and thriving.
In Boston, the project’s thought partner was the Neighborhood Birth Center (NBC) which
will open in 2024 as the first-of-its-kind birth center in Boston with the vision of improving
birth experiences and outcomes, across communities, for generations.
MassArt Art Museum (MAAM), the Mütter Museum, the Philadelphia Center for
Architecture and Design, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, were vital to
the development of the Designing Motherhood exhibition.
Major support for Designing Motherhood has been provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Support for Designing Motherhood‘s initial presentation and publication was provided to Maternity Care Coalition by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center
Located next to Seattle Center and the headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, the Gates Foundation Discovery Center is a catalyst to educate, inspire, and
motivate local and global awareness and action. Through exhibits and programs, the
Discovery Center convenes and connects people to relevant topics, stories and resources
to inspire action in Seattle and beyond. Open Thursdays – Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is always free. More information at discovergates.org.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses
on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger
and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially
those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman,
under the direction of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of