A museum that was supposed to be dedicated to London's suffragettes is now somehow about Jack the Ripper instead

A museum that was supposed to be dedicated to London's suffragettes is now somehow about Jack the Ripper instead

Last year Tower Hamlets council approved the planning permission application for a "Museum of Women's History" in Shadwell, east London.

It seemed like a good fit, since the converted Victorian shop space is located on Cable Street, which has a rich and varied history in which women played a central role. The 1888 women matchmakers' industrial strike, suffragette campaigning, and 1970 protests against the racially motivated murders of local women all happened in this part of the city.

Imagine locals' surprise, then, when the boarding in front of the premises was taken down last week for builders and decorators to add the final touches to the black and red "Jack the Ripper Museum".

The original application and designs submitted last year said:

The museum will recognise and celebrate the women of the East End who have shaped history, telling the story of how they have been instrumental in changing society. It will analyse the social, political and domestic experience from the Victorian period to the present day.”

Several residents are nonplussed by the change. Sedar Agirman, who owns Masa Cafe next door to the new museum, told that he was uneasy with the idea.

"I had to look up who and what Jack the Ripper is since I was missing the cultural context," he said.

But when I think about it, I don't understand why you would make a museum for the memory of something that dark.

  • Sedar Agirman, local resident

"It's got to be a joke," said Claire Dimond, who said she has lived in Shadwell for six years. "It's the furthest thing from celebrating women's stories."

Several locals have pointed out that the 1888 Jack the Ripper Whitechapel Murders took place a mile away and have called the new tourist trap "misleading".

Former Google diversity chief Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, who is behind the museum, told The Evening Standard:

We did plan to do a museum about social history of women but as the project developed we decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper.

It is absolutely not celebrating the crime of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place.

An advertisement painted on the door of the new museum poses the question, "Who was Jack the Ripper?" and says visitors can "see one of the murdered women's bedrooms" and "visit the morgue and see the autopsy photos".

The front of the building also has two fake blue plaques: one for George Chapman, one of several Ripper suspects, who lived on the premises for a time, and another for Elizabeth Stride, a Ripper victim, whose body was taken to a morgue near the Cable Street spot.

The change of use application for the premises was approved in October. In response to the controversy Tower Hamlets council said:

Ultimately the council has no control in planning terms of the nature of the museum ... The council is investigating the extent to which unauthorised works may have been carried out.

The Jack the Ripper Museum is scheduled to open on Friday, according to contractors working at the site on Wednesday.

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