You can’t possibly be bored when visiting these museums.
What are you looking for in a museum visit — A rare painting? An impressive gift shop? A good place to sit down? If the answer is, “exhibits that speak to the experiences of women,” the good news is that these museums exist. Even better, you can often access their content online. Here are 4 unique (and even delightfully strange) museums with content about sex and women’s health and reproductive lives.
Located in New York City, the Museum of Sex is full of neon, condoms, and taboo. Also referred to a MoSex, the museum opened in 2002, with the mission of exhibiting how human sexuality has evolved over time, and to do so unflinchingly. The museum’s current exhibits include a bouncy castle made up of breasts (yes, you can actually bounce in it), a catalog of pornographic images (spoiler: porn is not new), and an exhaustive exploration of the sex lives of animals (here’s something you never wanted to know: ducks are necrophiles).
Why you should visit: The fact that the Museum of Sex will probably make you uncomfortable is also why it’s important that it exists. There’s something about being in a room full of strangers looking at a bicycle with a penis at one end of it that forces you to confront your own ideas about sex, how you got them, and what role (for better or for worse) they’ve played in your sex life.
Conveniently acronymned “M.O.M,” the Museum of Motherhood is located online, with the exception of its art annex, which you can visit in St. Petersburg, Florida. (The museum also does Pop Up Exhibits all over the country.) M.O.M, which opened in 2003, is dedicated to the collection and preservation of materials about motherhood, procreation, pregnancy, caregiving and family, from a diversity of perspectives. The Museum is in the process of making a film, “The Motherhood Movement’ – You Say You Want a Revolution,” which documents the first ever summit on mothering and organizations focusing on maternal health, wellness and progress, at York University in 2008.
Why you should visit: The museum is the first of its kind, and it’s entirely online, so you can easily access the exhibits, including footage of what M.O.M. looks like when it’s occupying in a physical space, like the installation at 401 E. 84th St., in New York, where the exhibits dwelt from 2011-2014, and the Pop-Up Exhibit in Seneca Falls, New York in 2010. The museum has a notable and visible commitment to inclusion and activism, and the reality that while motherhood is a global experience, not everyone who is a mother has access to the same rights and resources.
Should you find yourself in Vienna, Austria, get yourself to the Museum of Contraception and Abortion, founded in 2003 by gynecologist and abortion provider Christian Fiala. It’s only three rooms, but its goal is robust: to give visitors information about contraception and abortion that’s accurate, and to educate about the history of both.
Why you should visit: You could spend days searching the Internet and culling information about the history, cultural context, and current reality of abortion and contraception, or you could visit MUVS, where it’s been done for you. The Museum is committed to scientific fact, which isn’t necessarily the case online, and you can also find much of the Museum’s content on its website (for example, this exhibit on vaginal rinsing, once considered a viable a method of contraception).
Let’s get this out of the way: The Museum of Menstruation was started by a man, Harry Finley, who ran it out of his house (his basement, specifically) in New Carrollton, Maryland. Finley’s museum was open from 1994 until 1998, but now you can find all the exhibits online on Finley’s chaotic, but ultimately impressive website. There are tons of vintage advertisements for menstrual products, from vaginal cones to Tampax’s “Coming of Age” Booklet, which advises home economics teachers in the 40s and 50s on talking about menstruation to Kotex ads that address fears of visible bleeding, and so much more.
Why you should visit: Like the other M.O.M, the Museum of Menstruation is housed online, so it’s accessible. Finley has collected, and had donated to him, an enormous amount of material on the cultural experience of menstruation. You can a serious amount of time learning about what it meant, and still means, to get your period. It’s safe to say that there’s nowhere on the Internet that’s quite like the Museum of Menstruation.