The museum is part of the V&A museums, and apparently the Museum of Childhood is the largest institution of its kind in the world. Must admit that surprised me, as I thought the Smithsonian Institution or some other American institution would have a childhood collection. Currently the museum has four galleries – Moving Toys, Creativity, Childhood and the Front Room. We spent most of our time in Moving Toys.
Moving Toys was not just rocking horses, pull-along toys and clockwork. they also included in this gallery optical toys. The theory being that “optical toys are a kind of moving toy that creates visual special effects“. Bit of a stretch!
By the way what do you think of these rocking horses? The one on the left is one of the oldest-known rocking horses in the world. It is believed to have belonged to King Charles 1, when he was a boy which would date it back to the early 1600s. And as for the other rocking horse, surely this can’t be a toy!
The creativity gallery was definitely aimed at the younger generation. You may recall I found my inner child in immersed light! However there were a few fabulous puppetry displays in the make believe section which were aimed at the older audience.
The childhood gallery is currently upstairs and filled with expensive toys and furniture. Rather splendid to look at but didn’t quite have the same pull on our memories or imagination. However I did find a few things upstairs that caught my eye.
I suspect after the forthcoming transformation project the museum will look completely different, and looking at the plans I think they are going to miss a trick with the changes. It is proposed to create a “world-leading centre of creativity for children“, which is an “unforgettable first museum experience for children“. Fabulous of course for the younger generation, but by shaping the museum in its “entirety around the way in which children aged 0-14 explore, play and learn“, I think adults will miss out. Part of the joy for us when we visited earlier this year was remembering our childhoods and exploring the history of toys. I suspect the static displays we spent hours looking around will be lost in the desire to have everything interactive.