Museums and the Material Culture of Abortion

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Museums have a potentially significant role in the representational landscape of abortion, as they continue to be rated highly as a source of reliable information in surveys of public trust. Yet mainstream institutions tend to avoid the topic, a problem compounded by the underrepresentation of women in exhibitions in general, and the marginalization of reproductive health topics specifically. Even in medical museums, which contain a wealth of material culture related to abortion, the subject does not usually feature as a prominent part of permanent displays. In the absence of clear explanations, visitors draw on assumptions or exchange their experiences, while anti-abortion groups fill the gap with their own, privately funded projects. In this chapter I explore this context and then focus on a radical reimagining of the modern medical museum, in the form of the Museum of Abortion and Contraception in Vienna, Austria. While this project offers an important and in fact unique resource for engaging with diverse audiences on these subjects, the exhibition narrative there presents a very particular perspective which privileges medical control over abortion. I conclude by considering the potential museums offer for engaging diverse audiences in productive reflection on experiences of abortion, from historical and contemporary perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRepresenting Abortion
EditorsRachel Alpha Johnston Hurst
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003016595
ISBN (Print)9780367860417
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameInterdisciplinary research in gender


Dive into the research topics of 'Museums and the Material Culture of Abortion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this