East End Women's Museum in Barking

Women’s Museum under development in Barking after setbacks

A new Women’s Museum is under development in Barking after a similar project fell through earlier in the year, Barking and Dagenham Council announced last week.

Plans are that the museum will open at Barking Wharf Square later this year, with links to the local history programme at Valence House Museum and Archives.

This comes after plans for the East End Women’s Museum (EEWM) to have a permanent, physical home in Barking were scrapped in February.

The council’s Senior Communications and Campaigns Officer, Siama Khan said: “We are now moving forward with a brilliant consortium of local partners, sector organisations and individual creative practitioners to see this important project through as an extension of our borough’s accredited local history Museum and Archive programme.

“It is important to ensure the project is shaped by and reflects the lived experiences of local residents who represent a diverse spectrum of identities and cultures.

“We encourage individuals and partners from the borough and beyond to participate in these discussions, and to register their interest over the coming months.”

Khan said members of the local community will be able to give input into the development of the Women’s Museum through the Citizen’s Alliance Network and future community meetings.

The council said it will also build on recent projects to support women and girls in the borough, including the We Rise Hub, a domestic violence support hub which opened in September 2021.

It added that the museum would be trans and nonbinary inclusive.

Rich heritage

The future museum’s façade will be covered until Autumn 2023 with artwork representing a timeline of local women’s history from 600AD to the present day by designer, Claire Mason.

One of the opening exhibitions, produced by artist Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf with funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, will focus on the Abbesses of Barking Abbey.

Schandorf said: “As someone with tender connections to friends and family in the area, I am honoured to be working with the richness of local histories. 

“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.” 

Finally, it will host a girl’s empowerment programme led by Barking-based theatre group Arc Theatre, and targeted local young people aged 11 years and older.

The council said the museum’s design will be directed by Creative Lead, Tracky Crombie, and architect, Sib Trigg, using sustainable practices.

East End Women’s Museum

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said the new Women’s Museum would help develop local, regional, and national partnerships within Barking and Dagenham’s cultural economy.

She added: “We’re so proud of the many incredible women who have contributed so much to our borough’s rich history and identity.

“Whilst the East End Women’s Museum are no longer part of this endeavour, we remain supportive of their organisation’s work and wish them all the best in their future programme and projects.”

The EEWM said it was not able to accept the grants needed due to trouble finalising the lease at its intended home in Barking town centre.

In February, an EEWM spokesperson shared both disappointment at this setback and hope that it would find a permanent home in the future.

They said: “The support we have received and the work that has been completed to date means we know that more than ever, a museum like ours is needed to tell the stories of the great women in history.”

Featured image credit: East End Women’s Museum via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

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