The Museum of Childhood in London is reopening on 9 December after a £4.7 million development. The 130-year old building should be restored to its Victorian glory (I’m paraphrasing here) with upgraded "visitor facilities" and a stunning new entrance.
The museum used to be called the Bethnal Green Museum, and was opened in 1872. In an early form of placeism (of which this blog approves), the idea was that the local people would run it. This never happened, and nobody really knew what the museum was for, other than vague ideas of cultural enrichment for the impoverished East Enders.
The museum settled on an emphasis on food, which began to decay. After the First World War, however, Arthur Sabin, one of the curators, began to focus on items that would interest children — and the museum kind of stuttered on like this until the 1970s, when Roy Strong, director of the V&A, decided to officially dedicate the museum to childhood.
On the museum’s website you can find pages of children’s activities as part of its aim" to encourage everyone to explore the themes of childhood past and present and develop an appreciation of creative design through our inspirational collections and programmes." The collections in the museum are indexed here. Touring exhibitions are listed here.