In 2023 Young V&A will open in London’s Bethnal Green. This project is the first of its kind: a full-scale transformation of the former V&A Museum of Childhood, from its prior incarnation as a museum of the social and material history of childhood to a completely refurbished and reimagined museum for children. The museum will be designed with – and for – the young, with national collection displays entirely dedicated to children from birth to early teens.
At its heart sits recognition of the vital role of creativity in the lives of the young, woven through three new permanent galleries entitled Imagine, Play and Design. These galleries will showcase 2000 objects in new, dynamic ways, drawing on the vast V&A collection of art, design and performance, dating back 5000 years and brimming with the power of imagination and ingenuity.
Work has been underway since 2018 on this £13 million capital project investment, signalling the V&A’s commitment to ‘Generation Alpha’, children born since 2015. This is a generation inhabiting a world of rapid technological change and environmental challenge (as I write this, COP26 is underway in Glasgow). Skills intrinsic to creativity – problem solving, collaboration, thinking in a questioning and solutions-focused way – will be vital in this world.
A recent survey of Gen A by Beano Brain, the insights and research consultancy of Beano Studios, revealed that a startling 44% of children, when asked what the word museum meant to them, replied along the lines of … ‘boring’. That’s almost one in two children telling us that museums are not places for them! We need to rethink the experience of the young in our spaces, to create spaces that are responsive to their developmental needs, that inspire, ignite, and engage, that afford agency to young voices, that welcome the young and say, ‘all this is for you’.
This is precisely what Young V&A strives to do, a vision set out by Tristram Hunt in a recent article. In the two years ahead, this blog will open up the processes of creating a new type of museum. As we’ll hear from the creative team, this means rethinking and challenging existing models of curating, ensuring the experiences we create will be active, social and relevant.
Our Young V&A blog will track the exciting journey of transformation in the next two years, enabling colleagues museum-wide to share insights into the heft and happiness of making a museum for the young. We do hope you will join us on this journey.