Rachel Crossley is the museum director for the East End Women’s Museum, which celebrates and shares the stories of women in east London and counteracts gender inequality. She was also one of the decision-makers for the Rapid Response Fund.
Rachel has worked with different museums & arts organisations for around thirteen years. She describes the East End Museum as a combination of her imprints around museums, participatory arts and community engagements, as well as an effort to challenge social patriarchy.
The museum addresses its aims through several methods, including pop-up exhibitions, events, workshops for schools and community groups, and online engagements.
Thanks to the support of LBBD, the East End Women’s Museum has a building in Barking Town centre, which the organisation anticipates shall open in the latter part of 2021. In preparation for the opening, the East End Women’s Museum is aiming to engage with locals with an interest in women’s history and gender equality.
Rachel worked remotely before the pandemic and therefore recognises this arrangement to be a rather smooth transition into the current climate of this global pandemic. Hosting face-to-face meetings, casually attending cafés or engaging in sports were areas which were most impacted for her initially.
Rachel initially found the events surrounding the pandemic to be rather rapid and the speed of such changes took some time to adjust to. In terms of work changes, the pandemic did require her to check in more frequently with volunteers.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic that she had was having to accept that the duration of lockdown would be longer than initially anticipated. She described this as a “slightly grim reality” namely since it limits her ability to see and be with her family in Manchester.
The more personal impact of the pandemic is perhaps the social implications it has imposed on her relationships with close ones. She has not physically seen her sister since the beginning of the year which was by far the longest time this had ever occurred. She has adapted to the social adjustments of the pandemic by keeping in touch with people remotely, making great use of apps like Zoom.
Given what she felt was a relatively fortunate position in regards to her health, her work arrangements and the health of her friends and family, Rachel maintained a rather optimistic disposition on the matter and tried to extract a positive view from her experience.
Rachel was able to attain some positive attributes as a result of the pandemic and national lockdown, one of which being the result of the greater discovery of her local areas. The opportunity to spend more time in nature, the chance to embrace a slightly more silent atmosphere and use that time to do things like read more and exercise has been a beneficial change for Rachel.
Although, there are professional shifts that have been rather drastic and somewhat limited Rachel’s experience of engaging her usual audiences. The advantage that Rachel identified was the extent to which virtual spaces have opened the work she does to people all over the country.
The pandemic certainly brought forth the revelation that people we care about within our immediate community and beyond are suffering and in the mist, a ‘new normal’ way of living is in progress. As we approach this ‘new normal’ and navigate through such changes, her hope is that we all realise our potential.