It’s the East End Women’s Museum’s first birthday today! We'd like to say a huge thank you to all our friends, followers, community partners, mentors and fellow museum nerds: we couldn’t have got this far without you.
Our journey started (as the timestamps remind me) over lunch in July 2015. The Ripper Museum had just been unveiled that day; part of a ghoulish bait-and-switch that had led locals at Cable Street to believe that a women’s museum was about to be opened on their doorstep. I sent this email, from Cardiff, to Sarah J, who would become my partner-in-not-another-crime-museum:
Within the hour, Sarah had passed this message on to twitter: in a matter of days we’d received offers of support, practical help, donations and advice. People’s generosity, warmth and encouragement has been overwhelming. Mostly in a good way. When something starts with a tweet, and gathers momentum so quickly, it’s enough just to trot alongside the snowball for a while.
Where we are today
A year later, we’ve steadied our course, and are well along the way to making the missing museum a reality. We’ve had our first exhibition (in partnership with Eastside Community Heritage) and our next, with Hackney Museum, is in the pipeline. We were proud to take part in the East End Women’s Collective’s ‘Real Story’ exhibition, too, as well as learning from women who are making history right now.
We’re also a bit more of an official entity as of this week - at least, I just signed some very serious-looking paperwork so I hope so. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been able to plan for the long-term future of this project - and as soon as we’re able to, we’ll let you know more about that.
A huge thanks to the East End (and the Internet)
As we approach the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, I’m proud to be part of a growing chorus who want to amplify the voices and stories of East End women, past and present. It’s thanks to the this chorus, the communities we work with, and our online supporters' thirst for stories about awesome women, that we’ve got this far.
When the whole thing starts feeling a bit unreal, unachievable or unbelievable; I take refuge in history. Even when things feel hopelessly broken, as they might have for you, too, in the last few weeks. I look at what our sisters achieved, what they made, what they left behind, and honour what they couldn't - those lost stories we will never hear.
And every now and again I revisit what I wrote, on the day the Ripper Museum opened, this time last year:
“I would love to build something, physical or otherwise, that will keep and share these stories, long after this sideshow is gone.”
Here’s to another year. I can't wait to see what we make together.