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Introducing the team: Briony Benge-Abbott

27 Apr

As Curator of The Women’s Library my role in the development of this exhibition was that of project management. I have worked in the museum sector for just over 3 years. Prior to this I undertook a foundation course in art and design before going to Bath Spa University where I studied Fine Art, specialising in painting. Whilst I greatly enjoyed the practical aspects of the course I also developed a strong interest in the theory of art, particularly that of the gaze. John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing was particularly influential on my approach to making and understanding art. I would often spend hours in local museums and art galleries with my sketchpad and pencils, studying the artefacts on display but also trying to capture the different ways in which visitors interacted with museum objects and looking for hidden meanings in the art works and exhibition design.

After leaving university I briefly attempted to make a living as an artist, but as anyone working in this field can testify it is incredibly difficult to make ends meet! I had no clue how to set myself up as a freelancer and spent most of my time working in a restaurant, often on my feet from 10am until midnight. It paid the rent but it certainly wasn’t my dream job. Disillusioned and almost two years out of university I decided to attempt a drastic change of career and flew over to Majorca for a month of walking the docks in Palma. I was trying to get a job as a stewardess on a super-yacht heading to the Caribbean. It sounded fantastic, but in many ways I am pretty relieved I didn’t manage to get a position, not least because I have since discovered that my sea-legs are pretty much non-existent!

It was only on return to the UK that I rekindled my love for art, design and heritage and decided to pursue a career in the museum sector. I had started volunteering in my local museum and at the same time came across the Museum Association’s Diversify scheme (now sadly finished) which sought to support people from ethnic minority backgrounds to enter the sector. This scheme enabled me to undertake an MA in Museology at the University of East Anglia, an extraordinary course which took place inside the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, enabling hands-on practical experience along with many opportunities to discuss theories behind the collecting and display of objects. The Diversify scheme also led me to The Women’s Library, where I undertook a 6 month placement with the curator.

I have been at The Women’s Library ever since, also working part-time at Brent Museum as Exhibitions Officer for a year and a half. I consider it a privilege to work with collections that capture the many ways in which women have actively fought and campaigned for equal opportunities, in addition to developing exhibitions that provide a space for the celebration of such achievements as well as redressing the under-representation of women’s experiences throughout history.

Last September I started full-time at the Library as the Curator’s maternity cover, joining the All Work and Low Pay team at the end of the long-exhibition process when the focus was on finalising the loans, signing off the design, finishing the text and organising the installation. For me, this period is the most exciting and yet exhausting part of creating an exhibition. All the different elements are being pulled together and excellent team work is essential. Luckily, I was joining a team of incredibly passionate and skilled women! It was also a great opportunity to work with some fascinating objects from the Library’s collection as well as those from the TUC Library, the Black Country Living Museum, the People’s History Museum, the Museum of English Rural Life and numerous objects from private lenders. The exhibition is on until 25th August so if you have not yet had a chance to visit it, then you’ve still got plenty of time!



Introducing the team: Anna Martin

27 Mar

Working by gender graph 2011At University I studied Media and Society, which led to an interest in museums, particularly exhibitions and interpretation.  Since graduating, I have worked as a Gallery Assistant at various museums and arts venues, and contributed to a number of exciting projects – in archiving, marketing, event coordination, artist and production assistance and installation.  I have sought opportunities relating to what excites me, and this led me to The Women’s Library, where I volunteered with the Audience Development team for about a year.  In May last year I was asked to assist Clare Rose, the All Work and Low Pay Exhibition Researcher, and it has been a fascinating journey.

The core of my work was to research statistics relating to the themes of the exhibition to compliment the timeline in the form of graphs and charts. Spanning over a century, the timeline documents the many significant political and social changes which frame the exhibition and provides an enlightening context to the incredible stories represented through the objects.

Rummaging through the collections at The Women’s Library and The TUC Library, Clare and I collected a huge amount of information on wage rates, hours of work, types of work, discrimination, childcare and career progression – relating to women of all ages, from many backgrounds and experiencing life from many different perspectives , from the 1800s to the present day.

Sifting through the figures, I pulled out the most interesting bits, converted a lot of shillings into the decimal system, and pieced the puzzles together in the best possible way to translate the information in the graphs that I was to create.  It was very important to us that through the graphics we could highlight the “wow” moments that we encountered during our research.Women as a proportion of executives- 1974- 2001

As a 25year old woman it was fascinating for me to delve into the way things have been historically but even more important to see, and show, how things have progressed.  I see the timeline and the statistics it carries as an extension of the exhibition that reaches into the future, representing the continuing and living importance of the themes of the exhibition.

Introducing the team: Clare Rose

27 Mar
Clare Rose

Clare Rose, exhibition curator

Clare Rose was the Exhibition researcher for ‘All Work and Low Pay’, selecting key documents from The Women’s Library and the TUC Archive Collections to create the backbone of the exhibition. She also sourced artefacts and images to bring the narrative alive, finding them in museum collections and even in the local pub, and she wrote the exhibition texts. She has been working as a curator and researcher for over twenty years, specialising in textiles and in women’s history. In 2009 she was the Vera Douie Fellow at The Women’s Library, collecting interviews, photographs and surviving garments from 1970s feminists on ‘The Politics of Appearance’. This research formed part of the exhibition ‘MsUnderstood: Feminism Since 1970’ and  was featured in radio interviews and the national press,  including this article on the liberation look.

Clare Rose has also written several books and numerous articles on the history of fashion, including a set of volumes on ‘Clothing, Society and Culture’ (with Vivienne Richmond, 2005 Douie Fellow at TWL).

These highlight past issues surrounding clothing for women, both as producers and consumers. Many of these issues are highly relevant today; in 2010 she presented a text from 1910 at a meeting about garment workers organised by Fashioning an Ethical Industry. Her other specialism is the history of childhood, and she has written and lectured on this, including appearing in programs for Radio 4.

Clare Rose currently teaches for the Open University and the Victoria & Albert Museum; details of her activities are on her website,

Introducing the team: Sofia Linden

23 Nov

The centrepiece of the All Work and Low Pay exhibition is a lovely hand-crafted table. It houses three of the exhibition cases, and is made up of various ‘work surfaces’. It was built by furniture maker Sofia Linden. Here’s what she says about her work:

I left my native Sweden a couple of years ago to do a Fine Woodwork Diploma course at the Building Crafts College, a full time course running over two years. There I was trained as a furniture maker/ designer, using both traditional techniques and modern equipment. During the course we regularly had lectures by and did projects for some of the most prominent furniture makers in Britain, all teaching us their special methods in this non exact science called woodwork. Since graduating this summer I have worked as a freelance furniture maker.

My involvement in All Work and Low Pay consisted of the production of a table to display some of the content of the exhibition. The nine metre long table is formed from a number of work related pieces of furniture, incorporating domestic items such as ironing and washing boards, to office and industrial furniture including a drawing board and a workbench.

I was delighted to participate in the All Work and Low Pay exhibition, since I used to be involved in the Women’s Movement in Sweden, and because I work in a male dominated field. I can happily say that even though I am often the only woman on site, I have never experienced any prejudice or discrimination, and I see that the number of women working in my industry is increasing. I am very aware that were it not for the efforts of many before me I might not have the opportunities that are available to me today.


Introducing the team: Cristina Monteiro

15 Nov

Cristina Monteiro, architect and exhibition designer

Cristina Monteiro, muf architecture/art, was the exhibition designer for the All Work and Low Pay exhibition. Cristina joined muf in 2008 and since then has worked on the design and delivery of a suite of play spaces and landscapes in the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Camden, and most recently the enhancement of Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, part of High Street 2012.

Cristina was born in Portugal and has lived in East London since 2000. She trained as an architect at the University of East London and London Metropolitan University, where her postgraduate project won the School Prize for Social Entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining muf, Cristina worked on the design of several exhibitions including a landmark exhibition on the work of Sri-Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa at the DeutschesArchitekturmuseum in Frankfurt. She has been a studio tutor at Kingston University School of Architecture and Landscape, and a guest tutor at ÉcoleSpécialed’Architecture (Paris), London Metropolitan University and Syracuse University. Cristina sits on the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Conservation & Design Panel, and is the Treasurer of the Friends of Allen Gardens, a community group.


Introducing the team: Eve Barker

28 Oct

All Work and Low Pay posterEve Barker was the graphic designer for the All Work and Low Pay exhibition. She’s responsible for, among other things, the beautiful poster.  Here’s what she says about her work history:

“When I was a 19 year old student I designed the typography for the second issue of Archigram, a provocative architects paper in 1961, and also designed International Socialism magazine and worked on Socialist Worker. I finished college and worked for Penguin Books designing publicity and covers. Then I worked above Bertorellis Restaurant, in Fitzrovia, carrying my baby Nicki in a moses basket and running quickly up the stairs to avoid the rats that lurked everywhere. We were designing the typographic parts of Pirelli calendars, famous for their classy nudes. We moved to Covent Garden, fruit and veg market as it was then, and designed colour supplements.

When my children were a bit older I redesigned all the literature for the new Polytechnic of East London, I had to bring my three girls with me when I discussed new work with the principal. I left them in the typing pool which had turned into mayhem with staff crawling all over the floor by the time I fetched them.Eve Barker self portrait

I was a founder member of Artworkers from the 70s to 1997. Starting from a crumbling old building in Mare Street, East London, we designed placards and posters for many radical organisations, trade unions and charities. I designed a book on asbestos that played an important part in getting the use of asbestos banned in Britain, the author and publisher were sued for libel and were bankrupted but luckily I wasn’t targeted and the book got a lot of publicity. We were ordered to tear the offending page out, but no one was checking.

I have designed Hazards, a trade union safety magazine, leaflets for the construction safety campaign and leaflets and posters for Unison. We promoted the use of photographs of women and black people in the union literature, seems so normal now, but once we had to argue that they were the workforce and not some exotic strangers.

Now I work from home, supposedly at a more leisurely pace, I still love my chosen occupation.”