In 2017, Florence Schechter discovered that Iceland had a penis museum, but that nowhere in the world could its female equivalent be found. And so, the science communicator decided to do something about it. This month, in London, the Vagina Museum will be born.
Science Communicator Lunches Vagina Museum in London

In fact, it’s a pretty different proposition to the penis museum. “That’s kind of novelty, penises in jars,” Schechter explains. “We’re going to be much more thoughtful and actually explore the topic.”

First up, a note on the name. Schechter acknowledges the frustration at how the word “vagina” is often used when people are really talking about the external vulva (the labia, clitoris and vaginal opening) – but they needed a term people were already familiar with. 

“A lot of people don’t know the word vulva, and people are not going to engage with something they don’t know,” she says. A Vagina Museum is, frankly, more eye-catching and conversation starting.

The museum will look at the entire gynaecological anatomy – the inside (uterus, cervix, ovaries) as well as the outside – and consider its representation in culture and history. But the fact a Vagina Museum needs a bit of a glossary in the first place is proof of its purpose.

“The gynaecological anatomy is a very stigmatised part of the body,” points out Schechter. “A museum is a place where conversations can happen – the best way to fight taboo and stigma is with knowledge.”

We are still crushingly bad at talking about all the bits between women’s legs – often ignorant or euphemistic, vague or embarrassed, even if we have a vagina ourselves. And wider culture attitudes to them run the gamut of sniggering, censorious, disgusted, objectifying, or actively oppressive.

The Vagina Museum is located in Camden Stables Market on Chalk Farm Road and is open from 10am to 6pm on Monday to Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday.

Entry to the museum and exhibitions is free, however tickets to events and performances vary.

 The penis museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum, located in Reykjavík, Iceland, houses the world's largest display of penises and penile parts. The collection of 280 specimens from 93 species of animals includes 55 penises taken from whales, 36 from seals and 118 from land mammals, allegedly including Huldufólk (Icelandic elves) and trolls. In July 2011, the museum obtained its first human penis, one of four promised by would-be donors. Its detachment from the donor's body did not go according to plan and it was reduced to a greyish-brown shriveled mass that was pickled in a jar of formalin. The museum continues to search for "a younger and a bigger and better one."
 The penis museum

Founded in 1997 by since-then retired teacher Sigurður Hjartarson and now run by his son Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsson, the museum grew out of an interest in penises that began during Sigurður's childhood when he was given a cattle whip made from a bull's penis. He obtained the organs of Icelandic animals from sources around the country, with acquisitions ranging from the 170 cm (67 in) front tip of a blue whale penis to the 2 mm (0.08 in) baculum of a hamster, which can only be seen with a magnifying glass.

The museum claims that its collection includes the penises of elves and trolls, though, as Icelandic folklore portrays such creatures as being invisible, they cannot be seen. The collection also features phallic art and crafts such as lampshades made from the scrotums of bulls.

The museum has become a popular tourist attraction with thousands of visitors a year and has received international media attention, including a Canadian documentary film called The Final Member, which covers the museum's quest to obtain a human penis. According to its mission statement, the museum aims to enable "individuals to undertake serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion."

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