Ascending the cultural statusphere is a museum unlike any other. From its base in Bridgeton, Glasgow Women’s Library is blazing a trail for the rest of the UK.
“The Library has grown from a tiny grassroots organisation to become the only accredited museum – in the UK – dedicated to Women’s History. It is also a recognised collection of national significance,” GWL Enterprise Development Manager, Sue John, said.
GWL’s status of national significance comes not just from its records of society, but from its social action. The Library grew from an Eighties project titled Women in Profile, which highlighted the cultural achievements of Glasgow’s Women, in the run up to its European City of Culture award.
Since then the library has remained committed to social activism.
John explained: “Outreach programmes are something that Glasgow Women’s Library has always ran. For instance, we have a long standing adult literacy programme and its students often become involved in our other projects.”
Part of these projects has always been the gathering of artifacts on women’s history.
John said: “We collect items that tell the stories of women’s lives, whether it be things from the women’s liberation movement or more recently things collected at Trump protests.”
Throughout the years, as GWL projects grew in number so did its artifacts. Once an impressive collection had formed the GWL went through the robust process of becoming an accredited museum.
John said: “GWL has managed to keep grassroots ownership, because everything in the Library is donated; whether it be the 20000 books, 3000 museum items or 300000 archive items.
“We have kept all of the resources accessible and friendly, to maintain our core values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”
This democratic approach even extends to the museum’s curatorial choices.
John revealed: “We have a project called Women Making an Exhibition of Themselves that gets volunteers involved as the library’s community curators. This means that they help to decide which artifacts make it through to our permanent collection. The community curators pick items and find ways of interpreting their stories.”
Similar interactivity also lies at the heart of GWL events.
John explained: “We host speaker and workshop events that attract both men and women, old and young. For instance, we are hosting Open the Door, a Literary Festival that brings together women authors and aspiring writers.
John enthused: “The beauty of Glasgow Women’s Library is that we bring together people whose paths might not naturally cross. We have local people rubbing shoulders with Turner Prize nominee artists.”
GWL attempts to make culture accessible to all by offering free activities, Pay It Forward ticket schemes and disability friendly events.
John said: “As a society we are not placing as much importance as we should on the life-changing power of art, culture and heritage. We know that it can be a powerful vehicle in providing opportunities.
“When you improve the lives of women you also improve the lives of their families and the communities that they live within. That is how Glasgow Women’s Library has worked throughout the years to win hearts and minds.”
She concluded: “Everyone is welcome to come into Glasgow Women’s Library. Visitors are greeted with the offer of tea and a tour, they don’t have to spend any money or even have a reason for coming.”
[Photo credit: Keith Hunter]