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The Vagina Museum at Ancient House

The Vagina Museum Comes to Ancient House, Thetford

On Saturday 6 October (11am to 3.30pm) Ancient House is hosting The Vagina Museum’s touring exhibition asking Is Your Vagina Normal?

This is a question almost everyone with a vagina has asked themselves at some point. But just like fingerprints, no two vaginas are the same.

The aim of the exhibition is to broaden the understanding of gynaecological health. The focus is on three themes: Does my vagina look normal? Does my vagina feel normal? Does my vagina smell normal?

The team from The Vagina Museum hope that the touring exhibition will empower everyone with a vagina to feel confident in understanding their bodies, and remove the embarrassment surrounding vaginal health.

Vagina Museum at Ancient House

The Vagina Museum at Ancient House

Florence Schechter, founder of The Vagina Museum and Science YouTuber says that vaginas "are not talked about enough" and that's contributing to an overall lack of understanding about women's anatomy.

A 2014 study by Eve Appeal revealed that only half of UK women aged between 26 and 35 were able to accurately label a vagina on a diagram. A 2016 study by Eve Appeal found 65% of young women admitted to having a problem using the words "vagina" and "vulva" and 40% of 16 to 25 year olds use code names like "lady parts" to discuss their gynaecological health.

The touring exhibition is the first step on the journey to create the world’s first bricks and mortar museum about the vagina and the gynaecological anatomy. It will take a holistic view of the gynaecological anatomy and there will be four permanent galleries: science, culture, society and history.

The Vagina Museum at Ancient House

"There is a penis museum in Iceland. Which is pretty cool. But there is no vagina museum. People don't want to talk about vaginas and many don't want others to," says Schechter. "No wonder there's never been a vagina museum before. We're constantly getting shut down when we try to talk about these things."

Schechter says she's never seen any backlash when people talk about penises. "We must turn the tide.”

The stigma attached to talking about vaginas has far-reaching consequences when it comes to women's health and safety. "This has major implications such as people not going to their doctors about their health as they aren't comfortable talking about it, not seeking help when they are victims of abuse, and issues like consent and contraception," says Schechter. According to a recent survey by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, a third of women in the UK delay getting a smear test because of embarrassment. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women aged 35 and under and smear tests can prevent 75% of these cases.

“What people will learn is all about de-stigmatisation, health awareness and just having fun, because, why not? Vaginas are fun.” And it’s not just for women. Schechter said: “Trans men are very important. People who have vaginas but don’t identify as women have a particularly tough time, for example, getting a cervical smear, but they are just as at risk as anyone else with a vagina.”

The pop-up Vagina Museum is part of a series of events linked to Ancient House’s teen curated exhibition, Pride of the People: Helping History Out of the Closet exhibition.

The teenagers have chosen a strong selection of queer stories and themes to feature in the display. The display includes two replica bawdy pilgrim badges. Pilgrim badges were very popular in Medieval Europe. They were inexpensive souvenirs sold at pilgrim shrines such as Walsingham, Norfolk. They were seen as powerful amulets which could become endowed with the saint’s powers when touched to the shrine. Most badges depict sacred items such as the head of John the Baptist. The two on display in the exhibition are examples of lewd symbols. One shows a penis about to enter a vagina and the other a vagina riding on a horse carrying a bow and arrow. Scholars are divided on the purpose of these badges. Some have suggested that these badges might have been worn by sex workers to advertise their availability or by young men as a sign of their virility. Other scholars think they were worn to distract the Evil Eye away from their wearers and could therefore have protected people against the Black Death. The exhibition is on show until 1 December.

To book your place on the tour, or for further information please contact 01842 752599 or email ancienthouse@norfolk.gov.uk.

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