The Vagina Museum’s mission as an institution is driven by social justice and public health initiatives. Dedicated to gynaecological anatomy, the museum has officially opened in London’s Camden Market with its inaugural exhibit “Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them” on display.
Florence Schechter, the museum’s founder and director, has secured a two-year lease on the Camden Market lot, though she plans on expanding thereafter. “The ultimate goal is to build a permanent museum, but that takes a lot of time and resources. This is like our starter home” she says in an interview with The New York Times. Schechter tells the London Evening Standard that the goal is “to have a big permanent collection and exhibitions on everything from science to culture to history.” A podcast is also in the works.
During the opening, founder of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, Marissa Conway, shared her thoughts on the issue at hand “It’s almost like there’s an embargo in society around having very open, frank, honest and educational conversations around vaginas. I didn’t expect to have a visceral reaction of gratitude, but there’s an element of relief that we can talk about this.”
The museum is a crowd-funded venture and is registered as a charity since being pitched successfully to avid trustees. Inside, you will find an abundance of educational placards, informational posters and a variety of sculptures and artworks. Discussing the collection so far, Sarah Creed, the museum’s curator, shared “The anatomy has such complex politics around it, that we found it was best to first engage people through what they know, so we can teach them things they don’t know. Menstruation, cleanliness, sexual activity and contraception are things that a majority of people have discussed in some format, or experiences in some way”. The Muff Busters exhibit is consequently intentionally general and informative. “We can talk about cold, hard facts all we want, but that’s not going to change people’s minds. It’s all about unpacking social constructs and changing perspective through engagement,” Creed continued.
The Museum’s central pillars are Respect, Integrity, Empowerment and Inclusiveness, with among their many Mission aims being to “spread knowledge and raise awareness of the gynaecological anatomy and health”, “erase the stigma around the body and gynaecological anatomy” and “act as a forum for feminism, women’s rights, the LGBT+ community and the intersex community”. Throughout the exhibit, the word ‘woman’ is actually used infrequently on the wall text, highlighting that a vagina is not what makes a woman. A central key message is that dismantling gynaecological taboos isn’t a gendered issue “This is everyone’s dialogue. By segregating the issue, we only perpetuate it” says Creed.
Florence and her team have received the usual hateful backlash and mockery from trolls alike online, where the internet has proved itself to be their biggest challenge due to content censorship and their ‘violation of community guidelines’. The museum’s development and marketing manager Zoe Williams spoke on the issue, saying “It’s not a human problem as much as it is an issue with algorithms, which are set to assume anything with the word vagina in it is adult content or porn. O
ur emails go to spam and our online ads get rejected, and it’s all because of stigma. We’ve had to rely on organic reach.”
The Vagina Museum, London NW1, is open from 10 a.m. — 6 p.m., from Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Entry is free.