Every possible topic has its own magazine. And its own museum. Also menstruation. Looking for a period museum or a museum with menstruation related objects in its collection? This is where you need to go. Let’s start in Asia.
The Red House Period Museum
Asia’s first period museum was recently opened in Taiwan. Initiator of The Red House Period Museum Vivi Lin is also founder of With Red (previously called Little Red Hood) – Taiwan’s first non-profit organisation for period equity (access to affordable and healthy menstrual products and education). It took three years of planning and building before the opening of the museum, on June 29, 2022, was a fact. More than 150 influential D&I figures in Pan-Asia, including legislators, council members, public figures, artists, enterprises and NGOs, attended the opening.
‘Period stigma, poverty and other issues are the elephant in the room,’ said founder Vivi Lin. ‘They’ve been there throughout the years, so obvious, but we just don’t see them. Now we’ve created a physical space in this city, period issues are immediately noticeable; people can’t ignore them anymore. People will start talking about periods.’
The museum is located in a refurbished 50-year-old house in the middle of a traditional market in Taipei City. ‘We chose this location with intention,’ explained Jia Hsin Hsieh, With Red’s Head of Education and Social Services. She mentioned that they believe menstruation is highly embedded in people’s daily lives. Therefore, the museum of menstruation should also be as accessible and natural as going to a traditional market. That’s why they chose to build a museum in the middle of a market street, differentiating itself from other art or cultural museums.’
‘What better way to remove stigma than to make the period fashionable?’
Highlights of the permanent exhibition include: detailed and explicit lessons on menstrual cycles and female anatomy, collections of current and antique menstrual products, personal stories and case studies of period poverty and stigma, art pieces with the message of embracing body diversity, and collections of period education materials. ‘The museum has been three years in the making by With Red, and will continue to enrich its collections,’ said Yin Chu Lin, Head of Research and Advocacy, With Red.
On one side of the wall on the museum’s first floor, there’s the special opening exhibition, FLOW. This is dedicated to artwork inspired by periods and the strength and power the uterus symbolises. The exhibits include pieces made by several female, male and non-binary artists. There is also a small souvenir shop with stickers, accessories, trinkets, tea bags in the shape of menstrual cups and pads, and a charm with the blessing of smooth periods. ‘What better way to remove stigma than to make the period fashionable?’ says the press release.
Watch a short report about the opening here to get an impression of the collection. Besides an interactive museum, The Red House Period Museum is also a period hub: a place where you can openly discuss inclusivity and diversity. In other words: the place to be for menstrual education; for al genders and ages.
The Red House Period Museum, 40, Lane 335, Chongqing N Rd Sec 3, Taipei City. Taiwan.
Museum of Menstruation & Women’s Health (MUM)
The world’s first ever menstruation museum – the Museum of Menstruation & Women’s Health aka ‘MUM’ – was founded by a man. The American Harry Finley (1942) became intrigued by the way different cultures deal with the taboo subject and started collecting. First only vintage magazine advertisements (Finley is a graphic designer), but soon other objects followed. The museum, located in the basement of his home in the state of Maryland (USA), was open to the public for four years. Currently, it can only be visited virtually. Mum.org is a real digital treasure for those wanting to know more about the cultural aspects of menstruation. You can easily spend a couple of days browsing the website, which is rightfully declared digital heritage by the Women’s and Gender Studies web archive of the American Library of Congress.
The physical collection – vintage advertisements, historical sanitary products, medical tools, couture and art, anthropologic artefacts and rare educational material – has been gathering dust in cardboard boxes for years, waiting for a new headquarters. Incidentally, a few of these boxes would be used in a temporary exhibition, such as the Norwegian exhibit about the history of the Scandinavian tampon and menstrual pad company SCA (currently Essity, aka Libresse). This special collection deserves a platform. After years of insecurity, there’s good news. ‘A large museum has taken over the collection,’ says Finley. ‘This month, they’ll collect the last truck with objects and only afterwards I’m allowed to reveal the name of the museum.’ We’ll keep you posted!
Menstruation Museum Amsterdam/Europe
Unfortunately, this plan hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. The website still exists and there’s still a Facebook account that hasn’t been updated recently. The collection with all sorts of historical menstrual products has moved, together with initiator Linnea Celik, to Sweden. On Instagram, the name Menstruation Musem Amsterdam has been changed to Menstruation Museum Europe. In that case, Afrika, Australia and South-America would be the only continents without a menstruation museum.
Meanwhile, the museum’s collection is used for educational purposes. During the event Bloody Sunday Afternoon (part of the Dutch sustainable happening Duurzame Week Utrecht), historical menstrual products could be admired. Cellick (above, in the middle with her back turned) also showed part of her collection during an episode of Vrouw Op Mars – together with Period! founder Paula Kragten and Fidan Ekiz.
In London? Then visit the Vagina Museum. Which, anatomically speaking, should actually have been called Vulva Museum. Never mind. This museum about vulvas and vaginas has a temporary exhibition about periods, which can be visited until 22 September 2022. Periods: A Brief History investigates where the menstrual taboo has come from and if there are also cultures that believe that menstruation is a positive thing. Admission is free. The museum is also the place to be for stand up comedy, Cliterature (you might have guessed it, a book club about vaginas) and a shop that sells everything vulva-related. On 24 September 2022, there’s a special Zoom-event; a mix of the exhibitions Periods: A Brief History & Jane Austen Undressed by Jane Austen House.
ENTER, Vagina Museum, 18 Victoria Park Square, London.
PS: Think a museum about vaginas is special? Its male counterpart, the Icelandic Phallological Museum (located in Reykjavik, Iceland) has the world’s biggest collections of penises and penile parts.
Back to London. Because as of recently the London Science Museum also displays period pants and menstrual cups. Together with an assortment of historical menstrual products, such as vintage disposable pads and a scary looking tampon applicator from the beginning of the previous century.
Also in other parts of the world, many musea display menstrual related objects. Some examples: opium soaked tampons (which can be found in the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, USA) or a bottle of Bayer heroin (the predecessor of aspirin), which many women in the 19th century, including empress ‘Sisi’ of Austria, used against period pains. And how about the prestigious Victoria & Albert museum in London? In 2019, the V&A included a Tampax menstrual cup in its collection as part of their Rapid Response Collecting Programme.
Good news for everyone who associates musea more with art: there’s also menstrual art, aka menstrala. Visit our Art Category – which is far from complete. To be continued. Period!
Period! is an independent, online magazine about all aspects of menstruation. Period! is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from medical complaints, always visit your doctor or GP. Editorial articles can contain affiliate links. Sponsored collaborations can be found in the category Spotlight. Do you have any questions? Check our Contact page.