World’s only Vagina Museum closes its doors in East London and seeks new home

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The Vagina Museum, located in Bethnal Green, London, has announced it will be homeless once again after its property guardianship arrangement was brought to an end.

The museum, the world’s first physical institution dedicated to the female reproductive system and its surrounding culture and politics, will open to the public for the last time at its current Bethnal Green site on Wednesday 1 February before seeking a new home.

“In our time at Bethnal Green, we’ve once again demonstrated just how much the world needs and wants a Vagina Museum,” the museum said in a statement. “Times are, once again, uncertain for us, but we’ve been through this before and risen stronger than ever. With a community like you supporting us, we know we can get through this too.”

The museum started in 2017 as a series of pop-up events at London venues including the Royal Institution, the Feminist Library and the Freud Museum. It opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2019 after gaining permanent premises in Camden Market, north London. The museum moved to 18 Victoria Park Square, in Bethnal Green, London, in March 2022, after the landlords of the Camden space refused to renew their lease, instead turning the space into a clothes shop.

The museum used its current premises under a property guardianship arrangement, a government-recognised scheme where vacant premises are offered to small businesses or residents on a flexible arrangement in order to guard against squatters. Guardians typically pay a licence fee below market standard rental prices on a month-to-month basis.

The Bethnal Green iteration of the museum has received 40,000 visitors since opening, and gained acclaim for exhibitions like Periods: A Short History, which explored persistent social taboos about the menstrual cycle.

Florence Schechter, the director of the museum, said to the Evening Standard: “The museum is too important to give up on. It’s a museum that means a lot to people. It’s a vital eduction service. In parts of the online world, and in many places around the world, you can’t even say the word ‘vagina’”.

In a tweet, the Victoria & Albert Museum branch of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “The Vagina museum is the kind of organisation the industry needs. They support striking workers and call out ableist recruitment practices. We’re really sad to hear they are having to move again.”

The team behind behind the museum are now seeking a space of around 2,000 sq. feet in a London location. Its collection will be held in storage for the interim period. The Vagina Museum is also seeking donations from the public to fund their next move.

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