Gulbenkian Prize Longlist 2007: The Women's Library, London

By Katie Millis | 16 February 2007
image shows a model of a womans body, with words such as harlot and hooker printed onto it

Prostitution - What's Going On? tackled a controversial subject. © Rachel Hayward/ 24 Hour Museum

The voting for the 2007 Readers' Poll for the Gulbenkian Prize is now closed

24 Hour Museum finishes its alphabetical roundup of the museums on this year's longlist for the Gulbenkian Prize with a look at the Women's Library and their groundbreaking exhibition Prostitution: What’s Going On?

Opened to the public in 2002 following a £4.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), The Women’s Library holds the largest collection of women’s history in the UK - the oldest and most extensive collection in Europe.

At the heart of the Library's work are women’s campaigns for equality, and documenting issues over which women have taken risks to fight for justice.

The HLF money went towards purchasing the site of the old East End wash houses, where a new centre was built to house more than 400 archive and museum collections. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) have designated these collections as being of ‘outstanding national and international importance’.

image shows a set up phone box in the woman's library with graffitti on the walls

The exhibition features multimedia work, creative writing projects and photographic commissions. © Rachel Hayward.

Prostitution: What’s Going On was opened at the Library in September 2006 by human rights campaigner and Body Shop founder Dame Anita Roddick. The exhibition marks the centenary of the death of Josephine Butler, a Victorian social reformer and campaigner for the rights of prostituted women.

The exhibition features historical and contemporary collections in addition to leading contemporary research from across the globe, exploring issues surrounding prostitution and sex trafficking past and present.

Artworks bolster this content, with the display providing an informative and thought-provoking experience on a controversial subject that is often kept quiet.

image shows a tee shirt with Football Yes, Prostitution No printed upon it.

Prostitution: Whats Going On? offers a thought-provoking experience. © Rachel Hayward

Magazines, posters, maps and objects highlight the complexity of concerns around prostitution, and a short film by Annis Josli, called Sold Feelings, gives a voice to a group of trafficked women.

A public events scheme accompanies the exhibition, with specially devised debating sessions for sixth form students and professional training for people working with vulnerable women.

The show is curated by Dr Liz Kelly, Professor of Sexualised Violence at London Metropolitan University and Director of the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, and Gail Cameron, Curator of Special Collections at the Women’s Library. Prostitution: What’s Going On? runs until March 31 2007.

Should the Women's Library win the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize? Go to the 24 Hour Museum’s vote page to vote for Women's Library or any of the other longlisted museums in the 24 Hour Museum’s Gulbenkian 2007 People’s Vote.

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