It has been a busy, successful and transformative year for the Museum of Childhood. We’ve opened 4 exhibitions, hosted over 50 events, held 872 teaching sessions, and had 417,334 people through our doors. Although a few long-standing members of staff left us, we gained some fresh new faces too, including 18 new volunteers. We refurbished our café, expanded our Early Years offer, and, most excitingly of all, announced plans to redevelop and transform the museum over the next few years.
Before we take a quick look at the exciting year ahead, I asked the Museum of Childhood staff for their 2018 highlights. Here they are…
My highlight of 2018 was my courier trips to Southampton and Chichester to install and de-install our touring exhibition Game Plan. It was exciting to see this exhibition have a new identity at every venue, and it was great meeting peers from around the country.
Lauren vonBechmann, Assistant Curator
During half-term I ran workshops with visiting families. Children made lovely little mini theatres and puppets that all tucked away into a book. Some made mini sets based on their favourite books and others made up their own narratives entrirely! Have a look at some of them in action by clicking here and here.
Rebekah Lidwell, Freelance Designer
My highlight was earlier in the year, with the highest profile acquisition of 2018. This wardrobe-sized Palladian baby house, named the Forster Baby House, entered the MoC’s collection following an export ban. It is a rare and magnificent survival and it fills a large gap in our chronology of doll’s houses. It is currently undergoing conservation treatment and we hope to be able to display in 2019. Watch this space!
Will Newton, Curator
During the Easter holidays we had a huge dream collage built to link in with our Dream On exhibition. It was added to by the public over a series of days and looked amazing by the end of the week! It was lovely to see a splash of colour on the Marble Floor, and the children drew some of the weirdest things, including a very scary version of the clown from It.
Katie Roberts, Activity Assistant
My highlight of 2018 was developing an exhibition of work by Dorothy Bohm, one of Britain’s most eminent photographers. She’s 94 years old but still going strong. It was a great joy to get to know her during the process, and to listen to her stories about her fascinating life. The photographs we selected together show her great talent and skill but also her warmth and humanity.
George Benson, Exhibitions Assistant
This year I got the exciting opportunity to speak at the Australian Museum’s Association Conference in Melbourne. The conference was themed ‘Agents of Change’ and I spoke about our wonderful Children’s Forum and their positive ‘disruptive influence’ on the museum. During my time down under I managed to undertake research on other children’s museums, meet some inspirational peers from the heritage sector, and get some great ideas for 2019. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and an amazing chance to share our work with the world.
Andrea Cunningham, Head of Learning
Where to begin! Although it’s hard to choose, my highlight would be the end of the Small Stories touring exhibition, which returned to us in July. It was the first project I worked on when I joined the museum in 2013, and it was the Museum of Childhood’s first international touring exhibition. While it has been travelling around the world over 200,000 people have seen it. The dolls’ houses are one of the highlights of the collection, and it was lovely getting to see them for one last time before they go into storage to have a well-deserved rest.
Sophie Sage, Exhibitions Manager
I really enjoyed partnering with Spitalfields City Farm for the second year in a row. They set up a pop-up farm in the museum grounds as part of our nature-themed Nordic Family Day, inspired by the Century of the Child exhibition. They brought along rabbits, sheep, chickens and miniature donkeys (my favourite). Needless to say that it was a hugely successful event, and something we might continue in the future!
Chinami Sakai, Family Learning Officer
I’d say my highlight was working on the exhibition, A Pirate’s Life for Me. The design and build of the exhibition was a little more immersive and playful compared to previous shows, giving me the opportunity to be more creative within my role. It was challenging to create pieces of set with a limited budget and a tight schedule, but the results are great and the public are really enjoying it.
Tom Haynes, Technical Co-Ordinator
So many highlights! The top one for me was the press launch for the new museum vision, which was led by children from a local primary school. They did brilliantly, with one of them telling the press that the whole project budget was going to be spent on pizza! MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, attended the announcement and later said that the ‘Museum of Childhood is the jewel in the V&A’s crown’. What a wonderful morning!
Helen Charman, Director of Learning and National Programmes
For me it’s been working on A Pirate’s Life for Me and the sheer joy of the kids engaging with the exhibition! Possibly the best moment was when we added the sea creatures to the rockpool and a small boy literally launched himself into the pool with a cry of ‘TOYS’! And we can’t forget the small girl cuddling the crocheted stingray as if it was her new best friend.
Kirsty Sullivan, Formal Learning Manager
In December we hosted a magical collaborative event as part of the Spitalfields Music Festival in partnership with Spitalfields Music and THAMES (Tower Hamlets Arts Music Education Service). There were performances by groups of young people from the Saturday Music Centre, musical choirs and concert brass groups, interwoven with Soundbox Creative Ensemble, a combination of young people with disabilities and professional musicians. The whole piece was composed as a response to the architecture of the museum and choreographed to interact with the building. Different elements of the performance popped up in various locations around the museum in a playful, call and response manner.
Teresa Hare-Duke, Community Development Officer
Things to look forward to in 2019...
After a jam-packed year, the staff at the V&A Museum of Childhood have hopefully had a well-deserved rest over the festive period. We are now all back in the office, fiddling with our spreadsheets and trawling through emails like we’ve never been away.
So what will we be working on this year? Well 2019 is looking just as busy as last year, maybe even more so!
The Collections Team will be working through a previously unresearched collection. They have already found some hidden treasures and are looking forward to writing some blog posts about the discoveries. The Exhibitions Team are working on a top secret project after our Pirates exhibition closes in April. All we can tell you is that it is going to be future-facing, experimental and unlike anything we’ve done before.
Our Community Development Officer is currently working on a new display for our Front Room Gallery. Working with architects, artists, photographers and students, the exhibition will explore the museum building in exciting ways. More to follow on this.
In the galleries you’ll be able to join in with our new activities which have been specifically designed for our Early Years audiences. These are the culmination of a year-long project on play and Early Years development with artist, Albert Potrony. Our Front of House volunteers will also be working more closely with our exhibitions and the collection this year, in an effort to integrate their skills and knowledge into the heart of the museum.
We’ve got all this and much more to look forward to this year. We haven’t even mentioned our exciting development plans! So, keep and eye out on our weekly blog posts to see what we are up to.