The Jack the Ripper Museum in Whitechapel has been at the heart of a media storm in recent weeks, with politicians and activists alike claiming it should be shut down.
But the museum’s owners maintain it tells the story from the points of view of Jack’s victims and paints an interesting story of life in the East End in the Victorian era.
We decided to pop down and see the Jack the Ripper Museum and see for ourselves.
Tower Hamlets councillors, as well as Mayor John Biggs, have spoken publicly about how upset they are at the museum’s opening, as it had been promised in the original planning document that it would celebrate women from the East End throughout history.
Speaking to the museum receptionist, who had only worked at there for three days, was a sobering eye-opener.
“One man came in and was arguing with me,” she said. “He said ‘why isn’t this museum about the women of east London?’ – he was very aggressive.
“I thought ‘If you care about women in east London, you could be nice to me’.”
An exhibit in the basement, known as the Morgue, acts as a memorial of sorts to the deaths of the eight victims of Jack the Ripper. Each victim has a picture, taken post-death, along with a brief description of them and their injuries.
The room also features a small stained glass window in the style of a chapel, while its centrepiece is an old-fashioned wooden table – the type on which autopsies would have been performed.
Up on the first floor is a small Victorian street scene, complete with mannequins of one of Jack’s victims and a policeman who has just discovered her. Screams and horse noises are played on a loop on a speaker system.
The next floor shows a mock-up of what the Ripper’s room may have looked like – the museum paints him as a wealthy psychopath with a good knowledge of medicine. The room reflects this, clean and tidy with anthropological art work and medical instruments.
One floor up is the police station, featuring another mannequin sat at a desk, this time going over clues in a scholarly fashion. There are some impressive artefacts in this room, including a replica of the original infamous “From Hell” letter supposedly penned by the Ripper himself, as well as many police documents and items relevant from the case. The collection of artefacts cost the museum £18,000.
The top floor features a mock-up of the bedroom of Mary Jane Kelly, Jack’s youngest victim at 25. Despite not a lot being known about Mary, the room presents a moving tribute to her, and includes a sound loop of last song she was heard singing in the pub before her death.
The museum has plans to set up to local charities including the Amy Winehouse foundation, and is planned to extend into a former workshop space opposite before the end of the year.