London’s new museum

London’s Vagina museum has been two years in the making – and the idea of establishing a museum has featured in the media with reviews being largely positive but some quite cynical. There were interviews with the museum’s founder about the whys and wherefores of establishing such a venue. In fact there’s been a sort of curiosity because with its focus on one single topic, its not easy to become strongly established. Nevertheless the museum is open – contrary to those who expressed disbelief at the whole idea!

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Entrance to the museum.

The new museum which is based in Camden market had a successful opening weekend. On its first public day, the 16th November 2019, Over two thousand people attended. Considering the size of the museum and the fact the space is has somewhat limited capacity because of safety regulations, that is a lot of people. It was an almost solid day of people as the staff told me and there was queues of course for those wanting to visit.

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One minute queuing time – if anything! There can be long queues however – especially at weekends.

There was also an opening party on the Saturday evening and that was fully sold out. The staff have told me many of the museum’s other evening events too are proving popular – and if anyone has any interest in these the best thing to do is to book early!

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The main area of the museum – shop and other information, leaflets, gifts.

The museum is apparently a temporary location for now, in a few years time the trustees would like to find a more permanent location. One of the staff explained to me that the building is very old (its part of the historic horse stables/hospital) and its not really suitable for exhibitions of the sort the museum would like to have. Which means its difficult to have say, a permanent exhibition that has a lot of information and education, and space for a temporary exhibition that is perhaps about arts, culture, the more serious side of things and even some humour.

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One of the main exhibits currently on show is Sam Dawood’s menstrual cups and tampon.

This is why all the exhibits are sort of temporary looking, its the way it has to be done and that illustrates the difficulty with setting up a new museum of this kind of genre. As a result the museum is looking for more support, donations, help, anything that can enable it to develop further, possibly gain a larger site than at present and to become an established part of the museum circuit.

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Misconceptions surrounding hygenine.

Some people might scoff at the idea a vagina museum was even needed but I would say they are wrong. It is an unusual initiative but if one really thinks carefully about it, it has strong merits going for it. I would say if anyone has doubts about the idea of it, well they need to go and visit it in order to have a better idea of what the museum is about and how it can benefit people especially females.

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The main display area – featuring the current Muffbusters exhibition.

One of the areas of topic will no doubt be the important on where there’s this attitude on things like the awful FGM, the still ongoing and serious domestic violence that is practised by domineering men, sex trafficking, and many other things, the museum wants to be able to give women the confidence that they are neither inferior nor the mere products of a male dominated society (which pretty much is still the case at the moment) so it does have a very useful role to play in terms of equality and rights as well as teaching awareness and confidence building. As one of the founders of the museum says ‘We want to be almost like a community centre for the community to come down…’

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If one looks at the current exhibition there’s a lot of educational material that is aimed at the female gender in terms of health, cleanliness, sex, and the other factors that revolve around this quite delicate subject. But there are also many elements in the exhibition from which men too can learn new things and in that process have more respect for the opposite sex, so there is an advantage the museum has and that is a two way traffic in terms of information and awareness.

I noticed in some reviews and social media that there were complaints about a small stone sculpture involving a female spreading her parts open. Its not said at all what this is, however if one is interested in old medieval architecture, like churches (one doesn’t have to be religious to do that) there are quite a few examples of small churches dotted around the UK (and many more of these sculptures around the world) that have what people would probably claim ‘oh these are sexual objects – disgusting!’ They were not. In fact they were a celebration of fertility – although others too have different but interesting theories as here.

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Even these positive images are turned to ridicule or prejudice by men. Source: Twitter

In terms of the above, there is still a considerable negative attitude and that is also something the museum wants to challenge. There’s a lot of negativity in all spheres and the museum has educational media they can use to demonstrate to those interested just how contrived things were against females in the past (and how things can still be stacked against them these days.) For example, as the museum points out, some 20th century experts claimed those menstruating emitted a ‘poison which wilts flowers and stops dough rising….!’ No doubt this and many other examples will be part of the museum’s remit to counter these considerably misinformed and extremely negative assumptions.

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Plenty of badges to choose from in the gifts section.

The museum consists of a handful of paid staff and at least forty volunteers who all give a bit of their time perhaps once, or several times a week, to ensure the museum runs smoothly. The museum is in need of more volunteers and there is a link to the application forms at the bottom of the page. Volunteering is of course a good skill to add to one’s cv. One must however be an advocate of femininst rights, equality and also accept the issues of intersectionality and trans-inclusivity.

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One of the more expensive mementos of the museum. Love the motto!

The museum has a page with most of the reviews and interviews from 2017 to date and that page can be found here.

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The Vagina Museum.

The events page can be found here.

The page on volunteering is here.

The museum’s winter appeal is here.

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