Security guard outside the Jack the Ripper Museum in Cable Street

Jack the Ripper Museum maintains security after protests

Nicola Sullivan, 12.08.2015
Council investigating whether “unauthorised works” have been carried out at the site
More than 100 protesters turned up for the opening of the Jack the Ripper Museum in London.

The museum, based in Cable Street, opened last Wednesday – a day later than planned – and still has a security presence at the door.

Staff told Museums Journal that although the disruption had now died down there were about 120 protesters outside ahead of the opening. 



Liz McKenzie, a research fellow in the department of sociology at the London School of Economics, was one of those protesting against the museum, which was granted planning permission by Tower Hamlets Council in 2014, on the understanding that it would tell the story of the women of East London.  

In an article for the Times Higher Education supplement, McKenzie wrote: “The planning application for the Ripper museum, submitted in 2014, said that it would be the first in Britain to celebrate women’s achievements. The local people – were supportive –they thought that perhaps the museum would tell the history and stories of the local Match Girls Union; the suffragettes; the Bengali women who fought racism in 1970s Brick Lane.

“Instead, what is to be opened on 12 Cable Street is a museum that will sell T-shirts and coffee mugs featuring a black silhouette of the Ripper stood in a pool of blood, reducing the women of the East End to a red smudge.”  

The museum, which charges £12 admission, features a recreation of Jack the Ripper’s living room, a mortuary containing photographs of the victims’ dead bodies and a room dubbed the "dross house" to illustrate the impoverished existence of the women who were murdered.

Models are also used to depict a policeman discovering the mutilated body of Catherine Eddowes, who was Jack the Ripper’s sixth victim, and there is a recreation of the police control room set up to investigate the murders.
 
The museum was founded by Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, the former head of diversity at Google, who has defended his decision that the museum should explore the Ripper murders. 

However, Tower Hamlets Council said in a statement that it will be investigating whether “unauthorised works” have been carried out at the premises.

A statement from the council said: "Planning permission was granted in October 2014 for the change of use of the premises to space for a museum.

"The council was advised at that time that the premises were intended to be used as a Women's Museum and supporting information was submitted with the application to suggest that the vision of the museum was to tell the story of women of the East End of London.

"Ultimately, however, the council has no control in planning terms of the nature of the museum.



“The council has subsequently granted consents for extensions to the premises and the refurbishment of the front of the building. The council is aware of the Jack the Ripper imagery and is investigating the extent to which unauthorised works may have been carried out at the premises."

Comments

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William Brown
MA Member
Network Manager: West, Lincolnshire County Council
15.08.2015, 19:51
My off the cuff superficial analysis: We now live in an era whereby reality and fantasy are mashed up daily in a way that makes it difficult for those either pushed for time, or too lazy to seek or verify information beyond what can be ‘smart-phoned’ on the Wikipedia/Googlesphere to really discriminate the intellectual or moral worth of exposing themselves to such ‘experiences’. This example feels particularly invidious if (as is stated the original planning application) it was framed with the intention of capturing and promoting some aspects of marginalised history, hard fought for; and this to be replaced with a business that (however you wish to dress it up) has an income stream that ultimately derives from riding on the river of blood of the victims of a murderer who personified misogyny! The word irony doesn’t cover it, perhaps immorality does? I predict it will be a roaring success, with the ‘dark tourists’ and some Steampunks lining up to line the pockets of the owners.
Martine Naylor
pro domme, Home
14.08.2015, 20:33
Time to get museum closed down.Not only is it insult to.women but they also have a misleading tag line online.
Time for them to go.
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
13.08.2015, 10:55
A petition urging the council to revoke planning permission has over 5,000 signatures: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/celebrate-suffragettes-not-serial-killers

And #stufftheripper (https://twitter.com/hashtag/StufftheRipper) is gaining traction on Twitter...
Anonymous
MA Member
12.08.2015, 15:01
Please someone explain to me how this thing can be called a "museum" ?
Charlotte Pratley
MA Member
Director of Business Development, Culture Syndicates CIC
13.08.2015, 09:39
The Museum of London seems to address the Jack the RIpper history well, by using the contextual information as the main focus of the story rather than the gory details: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/explore-online/pocket-histories/jack-ripper-and-east-end/

I'd be interested to see how many artefacts are used at the new "museum," compared to facsimilies, and whether the organisation undertakes any community work in the local area (tough if you've alienated your neighbours before even opening!) or if, as I suspect, it is in the same ilk as Madame Toussauds: more heritage attraction than vehicle for positive social change.

The accepted definition of a museum is an organisation that "enable(s) people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society.' If it does not match up to this description, surely it cannot be called a museum and contravenes the original permissions given by the council. It's a real shame in an area with far more interesting and less explored history as Cable Street, the site of riots in 1936 and home of the infamous Cable Street Studios.