A New Women's Museum Is Opening In East London This Year

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 12 months ago

Last Updated 02 May 2023

A New Women's Museum Is Opening In East London This Year

This isn't the only museum opening this year — check out 8 London Museums And Galleries Opening And Reopening In 2023.

Nephertiti Oboshie Shandorf
Portrait of Curator Nephertiti Oboshie Shandorf by Ruth Sewell

Plans to open a new Women's Museum have been announced by Barking & Dagenham Council.

Set to open in Barking Wharf Square towards the end of this year, the Women's Museum is not the East End Women's Museum, which was previously planned for the area. That museum, which was being compiled to "record, research, share and celebrate the stories of East London women past and present" announced in February 2023 it would no longer be moving forward with plans for a permanent home in Barking.

Instead, Barking & Dagenham Council will open the Women's Museum, with links to the local history programme at the nearby Valence House Museum and Archives, which it also runs.

A graphic depicting Ethel Scott, the first Black female athlete to represent Great Britain internationally
Ethel Scott by Claire Mason, 2023

The new museum will offer exhibitions, events and workshops, with a focus on showcasing "the history, heritage, stories and role of women from both the local area and beyond".

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said:

The Women's Museum will play a significant role in developing partnerships locally, regionally, and nationally as part of the wider remit of our museum and cultural offer here in the borough. I look forward to seeing the plans come to fruition over the coming months.

The first things to look out for include:

  • A facade covering the space where the museum will be, designed by artist Claire Mason. It's a timeline of local women's history from 600AD to the present day, and includes local people such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Annie Huggett, Elizabeth Fry, Muriel Lester and Doris Lester, Olympic and Paralympic athletes Ethel Scott and Beverley Gull, and singers Sandie Shaw, YolanDa Brown and Zara McFarlane. It's in situ now (pictured below during installation) and can be seen until the autumn;

  • The inaugural exhibition by curator and artist Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf, focusing on the radical history of the Abbesses of Barking Abbey. Dating back to the 7th century, the exhibition will explore the role of female leadership historically, using the context of the Abbesses to explore past and current issues related to women’s power, identity and voice. It'll open when the museum opens in late 2023;
  • A newly commissioned girl's empowerment programme for local young people age 11+. Led by Arc Theatre and launching in November 2023, it's an extension of Raised Voiced, a drama and presentation skills group for students from schools and colleges across Barking and Dagenham, which inspires, encourages discussion on, and raises awareness of, issues challenging young women and girls today.
A group of teenage girls performing
Arc Theatre's Raised Voices girls empowerment programme

Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf, Curator of the Women's Museum inaugural exhibition, said:

This exhibition and programme is a precious opportunity to bring elements of the legacies and stories of the Abbesses and their connections to ambitions and lives of women, girls and folk living in the area today. There is so much creativity and community in the borough and I am delighted to be celebrating these shared and overlapping heritages

Local people can have a say on the plans via the Citizens' Alliance Network over the coming months.

The Women's Museum is due to open at 4-5 Barking Wharf Square in late 2023. Keep an eye on the website for updates.