A significant percentage of the population are menstruating at any given time, though periods remain shrouded in stigma. Now, in an attempt to fill a gap in its Rapid Response collection, London’s V&A has put Tampax’s menstrual cup on display.
The acquisition is part of the museum’s aim to collect objects that respond to “major moments in recent history that touch the world of design and manufacturing”. The cup is one of the only objects in the collection that explicitly relates to periods, alongside a 1910 sanitary belt.
“Menstrual cups are nothing new,” Alice Power, assistant curator of V&A East Collections, wrote in a blog post, going on to explain that the addition of the Tampax Cup is inspired by the widespread deviation from single-use plastics.
“The market for non-single-use plastic alternatives to typical period products is thriving,” Power continued. “Upon the announcement that Tampax, one of the world’s biggest producers of disposable period products, were about to release a menstrual cup we knew that we might have a new Rapid Response Collecting acquisition.”
Tampax’s silicone menstrual cup – currently only available in the US – was announced in October 2018, and is co-designed with a female OB-GYN with the aim of perfecting the product’s design. Sanitary cups have been on the market for a while, with companies like MoonCup leading the charge.
“Social taboos around menstruation and the ephemeral nature of the associated products have made them historically difficult to collect,” Power concluded, “despite there being over a century of commercial and graphic design for period products.”
“Although periods have often been overlooked in collecting policies, the age of menstrual mystic in museums is now at last coming to an end.”
This new addition continues the V&A’s focus on sustainability. Last month, the museum announced it was adding a number of Extinction Rebellion artefacts to the collection, including a flag printed with the climate activist group’s distinctive logo, two printing blocks used to make protest banners, and a pamphlet from their first print run.