One of the high points of the year in Young V&A’s previous incarnation as V&A Museum of Childhood was the annual Kids in Museums Takeover Day. Children from Globe School in Bethnal Green applied for various jobs in the museum: marketing, learning, front of house, operations, retail and even director. They were interviewed, attended training sessions and on one day every year around 50 children took over and ran the museum for the day.
In 2020 the museum closed for our transformation so we no longer had a museum to take over. What were we going to do?
Turn Takeover Day inside out, of course, and let the museum team to take over the school on 12 November. Luckily, both Globe and the Young V&A crew are willing to try anything (at least once). The plan was to end up with an exhibition at the end of the day, so that parents could come and see what their children had been up to. The theme for 2021’s takeover day was ‘climate action’, which fit well with some of the themes of the new museum, including sustainability and young voices. Six museum teams signed up for the day, as well as a team from Quinn London, the building contractors who are transforming the museum building. We know from our previous work with Globe that the children feel strongly about the environment, so we planned sessions that would give them a chance to share their ideas. Parents and staff collected recycling and other rubbish for us to use in sessions, and we sourced more materials in charity shops.
The day kicked off with a whole school assembly led by Catherine Ritman-Smith (Head of Learning and Engagement) and Helen Charman (Director of Young V&A, Learning and National Programmes). The assembly was designed to get the children and staff excited about the day ahead. We think it worked! The children heard about our creative superpowers of collaboration, communication, creativity, and confidence as well as plans for the new museum.
Each class had two sessions led by museum teams, and the teachers were given a pack of activities that they could do in the other slot. Years 5 and 6 thought about why we reuse old buildings and who makes the decisions in our neighbourhood. Years 3 and 4 explored the journeys of the clothes we wear and the impact of fast fashion on the planet, and they were in charge of curating and designing the exhibition.
Years 1 and 2 designed and built recycled playgrounds and created marble runs, doing live problem solving as they went. Even Nursery and Reception got in on the act, with construction play sessions which used recycled materials as well as the Imagination Playground blocks.
The school treated the museum team to school dinners: delicious fish fingers or samosas and fruit crumble and custard, which we ate with the children. This gave us the chance to chat and find out what they were enjoying about their day. Making marble runs was a clear winner!
Years 3 and 4 worked hard all-day creating banners and signs for the exhibition, and we were happy to see so many parents visiting after school.
This was our first mass engagement with children since the museum closed in 2020, and it was so good to be back at Globe who have been instrumental in shaping our thinking about both the content of the new galleries and the way the new museum will look. Collaborative days like Takeover Day are also great opportunities for the team to work together, which is one of our strengths, and to demonstrate our own creative superpowers.