Building Creativity

July 27, 2021

We are working to transform the V&A Museum of Childhood into a powerhouse of creativity for the young. The site in Bethnal Green is fully decanted (as you may have seen in Secrets of the Museum) – the National Childhood Collection is in temporary storage in South Kensington.

Small teddy bear, Little Tommy Tittlemouse, being inspected by conservator Nora Meller, with a magnifying glass
Little Tommy Tittlemouse being inspected by our conservators © Blast! Films – photographer: Simon Lloyd

Our vision is to build creative confidence in young people from birth to early teens, harnessing the potential of the full V&A Collection and the expertise of creative practitioners through a collection-centred and audience-led approach. Four key strands of activity catalyze this transformation: first, the heritage of the museum as an educational, community and civic resource, described as an ‘anchor’ organisation, deeply rooted in its locality, and building on the museum’s strong history of community engagement since its inception in 1872. Secondly, a dynamic place of meaningful, relevant content for young people and their families (research commissioned from Beano Brain tells us that even today, 44% of children find museums ‘boring’ and of little interest to them. The sector clearly has some way to go). Thirdly, an evidence-based museum underpinned by leading research in early childhood development and cognitive science on the critical role of learning through play; and overall, a focus throughout on the vital importance of applied creativity as a skill for life, especially in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and something that is globally recognised – see research from the World Economic Forum, UNICEF and the corporate sector.

In this context, the four key aims of the new Museum of Childhood have been designed to build the creative confidence and design skills vital for ‘Generation Alpha’ – those born after 2010 – to thrive. These aims underpin the development of creative programming as well as the permanent galleries. They are:

  • to INSPIRE children and young people’s creative agency and voice through engagement with the V&A collections and themes relating to art, performance and design.
  • to EMPOWER educators to drive forward creative education in art, performance and design from early years to secondary school, becoming a national museum resource for creative education with HQ at Bethnal Green, developing an ecology of programmes and partners nationwide.
  • to CONNECT children and young people with the ingenuity of designers, entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors, and
  • to INFLUENCE the sector in building creative confidence through inclusive museum practice for children and young people.

In the coming months the team will write about the activities underway to create the new Museum of Childhood, from the Creative Learning Programme’s ‘Summer of Play’, which is well underway now, reconnecting with local audiences across the civic, cultural, educational and creative spheres, to the detail of the base build work and the exciting progress on gallery design and content.

This capital project is a collective undertaking by the V&A, with a dedicated and brilliant team driving the project forward across curatorial, interpretation, learning, operational and capital project activity. It is a V&A wide endeavour, a multi-million pound commitment that recognises the significance and importance of investing in children from their earliest years onwards, activating the extraordinary creative power and potential of the V&A at a time when, given the context of the pandemic with all its concomitant challenges for children, it has never been more vital.

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