V&A Reopens Its Museum Of Childhood At Bethnal Green

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 07 December 2006
a photograph showing various toys including robots dolls and a teddy bear alighting from a tube train

Everybody out at Bethnal Green! © V&A Museum of Childhood

The V&A Museum of Childhood reopens to the public on December 9 following a year’s closure and the completion of an extensive transformation of its 130-year-old home.

Children’s Author Jacqueline Wilson – the Children’s Laureate – will cut a cake to celebrate the Museum’s £8.2m revamp and officially declare it open at 12 noon on Saturday December 9.

Alongside a stunning new gallery and entrance space, the redevelopment has restored the home of the UK’s most important collection of childhood objects to something close to its Victorian glory. Galleries and displays have been fully updated, education spaces have been expanded and accessibility has been improved.

“With our state-of-the-art visitor facilities, outstanding building and magnificent galleries, we are now in the proud position of being able to give all of our visitors the engaging and enjoyable experience they deserve,” said Diane Lees, the Museum’s Director.

a photograph of workman wileding a hammer on a stone staircase

The Museum has been closed for a year to allow major building work. © V&A Museum of Childhood

“Visitors have been at the very core of this project, their needs informing us each step of the way, and our wish is that their visit to the V&A Museum of Childhood will become a day out to remember.”

The new entrance is designed to ease congestion at peak times whilst the 85m square gallery located in the foyer is dedicated to displaying works from the museum’s community programme. A site specific display of illuminated chandeliers created by groups from local schools, colleges and community projects will open in the new Front Room Gallery, literally lighting up the museum following its period of darkness.

A new learning centre has also doubled the capacity for school groups and created a designated space for community art and craft workshops.

Over 40,000 schoolchildren visit the gallery every year and new displays on the mezzanine galleries have been developed and updated around the themes of Creativity and Moving Toys to engage with them.

a photograph of a light filled museum gallery with supsended roof walkways and central court

© V&A Museum of Childhood

An ambitious temporary exhibition programme has also been announced for the revamped Museum with the inaugural exhibition, Happy Birthday Miffy, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the popular children’s character, Miffy, alongside the work of her creator and illustrator, Dick Bruna.

Forthcoming shows include Picasso: Histoire Naturelle featuring the artist’s graphic productions of animals, birds and insects (March 31 until June 15 2007) and Lost in Space (November 24 2007 until June 2008), which will explore the age-old fascination with space.

The Museum at Bethnal Green was officially opened in 1872 but it wasn’t until 1974 that it was officially dedicated to the subject of childhood and the V&A’s collection of children’s toys, furniture, clothing and other items was relocated and redisplayed there.

Today the collection is world famous and explores the history of childhood from the sixteenth century to the present day and includes interactive areas that help children engage with exhibits and learn about childhood in the past and in different parts of the world.

a photograph of an old toy theatre with cardboard cut out figures on the stage

Toys - from all ages - remain the focus of the museum collection. © V&A Museum of Childhood

The Museum raised £4.7m for the re-vamp with a further £3.5m coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Carole Souter, Head of the HLF said: “This precious 130-year-old building is now revitalised and has become a wonderful and engaging 21st-century museum. I’m sure that thousands of visitors will once more be enchanted by its exhibits for many years to come.”

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