Friday, November 02, 2018

Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood

London The Unfinished City
V & A Museum of Childhood

Friday November 2, 2018.

Having two young daughters, that enjoy traipsing around the Unfinished City, we thought that we would take them somewhere a little different. Normally, they find museums to be a little daunting because of their sheer size, especially my youngest, so we decided to visit the V & A Museum of Childhood.

Set in the heart of Bethnal Green the museum was simple to reach, being just a two-minute walk from Bethnal Green Station. And what a wonderful museum it is.

The museum houses over 6000 garments, construction toys, dolls (and their houses),furniture (from 1640 to the present), 3000+ games (both indoor and outdoor), mechanical toys, plus much more.

It it is a great place to reminisce and remember some of the toys that I played with as a child. Some of which I still have. And, it is the perfect place to have flashbacks, of which I had many.

Brief History

The design of the museum is a simple iron frame with a glass roof and brick walls enclosing it. There are murals in the north (art and industry) and south (agricultural scenes).The entrance way, a fish scale pattern marble floor, was laid by the female inmates of Woking Gaol.

Beginning its life, on June 24 1872, as the Bethnal Green Museum it exhibited various collections from the Great Exhibition and parts of the Wallace Collection, but had yet to find its niche. With the onset of World War I the museum closed and was used as a place to store valuable items. Some of these came from members of the Royal family.

In 1922 Arthur Sabin was appointed head curator. He found that the museum was often full of bored children and set about making it more child-friendly. Firstly, he set about creating a classroom and employing a few teachers. He then sought out some child-related objects and toys. He was helped in this endeavour by Queen Mary, who donated many of her own toys. As word spread, more toys and childhood objects were donated to the museum.

With the outbreak of World War II the museum became a canteen for feeding the general public and would remain so until 1950.

When the museum finally reopened it continued to show exhibits from the Victoria and Albert Museum, but there was also a growing collection of toys on display. Over the next 23 years it was this collection that would continue to grow.

When Roy Strong became director of the Victoria and Albert, in 1973, he had all childhood-related objects moved to Bethnal Green and everything none childhood-related moved to Kensington. When the museum reopened, it 1974, it was reamed the Museum of Childhood.

Its collection continues to grow and has donations from toy companies, the BBC and the general public. Other items are procured through government grants.

It is now the UK's National Museum of Childhood.

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