Small Stories

Though I haven’t ceased collecting childhood, over the last year my efforts at the Museum have been concentrated on the miniature world of dolls’ houses.

Henriques House, about 1780-1820. (c)V&A Museum, London

Henriques House, about 1780-1820. (c)V&A Museum, London

Opening in December, the special exhibition Small Stories: at home in a dolls’ house will introduce episodes from domestic history, as told by the diminutive inhabitants of twelve miniature houses.

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London

Doll from Small Stories exhibition (c)V&A Museum, London









What do this assortment of characters have to say about homes, life and history?

The world of tiny things has proven absorbing and massively time-consuming. Every house has so many stories, we’ve struggled to whittle them down to the snippets that will be in the final exhibition. So I’m endeavoring to share more of the background to the objects and the people who cared about them, over on another Small Stories blog.

Box Back dolls' house in store (c)V&A Museum, London

Box Back dolls’ house in store (c)V&A Museum, London

To find out about the process of the exhibition, research that we’ve done along the way and a fair bit of shameless anthropomorphising, come, visit, follow.

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A Photographer’s Childhood

Hello World, 1979. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum London/John Heywood

Hello World, 1979. Copyright Victoria & Albert Museum London/John Heywood


Over at Collecting Childhood’s new home on the main website of the V&A Museum of Childhood, you can hear photographer John Heywood talking about his childhood, taking pictures, and what he’s learned about children. And, see many more of his wonderful photographs.

Come, listen, look!

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New Home!

Collecting Childhood has a lovely new home, nestled in the main website of the V&A Museum of Childhood.

To find out who this chap is, head over and take a look. You can follow the blog from there too, and leave comments!

Beach Photo

What are you waiting for?

Star-gazing girls of Georgian England

A while ago I came across this Solar System sampler in the Museum’s textiles store. It was uncanny – the arrangement of concentric rings was so familiar and immediately recognisable, but so strange when seen as a piece of Georgian embroidery.

Solar System sampler. T.92-1939

Solar System sampler. T.92-1939

The sampler is a piece of linen 35cm tall and 35cm wide, with the title ‘The Solar System’ followed by five lines of text. At the centre is a large diagram of the six innermost planets orbiting the sun. Continue reading

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Mary B.313-1994


Mary Kempson is a woman from west London who donated hundreds of things to the Museum in the 1980s and 90s. Her original gift, a group of dolls, was quickly followed by teddies, baby clothes, board games, birthday cards, school books, holiday souvenirs, and much more. A new installation at the Museum brings her objects together with photographs and interview quotes – putting faces and voices to this collection of things. Continue reading

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Prizes, Punishments and Pupil Teachers

Attendance Medal, Misc. 1169-1991

This medal was won – or earned – by Lionel Lehman in 1903. It is not a School Board medal, but, like Denis Delay’s medal, comes from a religious institution, the Westminster Jews Free School.

Westminster Jews Free School was established early in the nineteenth century, before the government provided any money for education. By the time education was made compulsory and school boards were set up in the 1870s, it was a large, successful establishment. In 1883 the school moved to a brand new building in Hanway Place, a narrow lane at the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street. Continue reading

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Seeing is Believing!

Hi, my name is Mara Bosboom and I work for the Toy Museum in Deventer, the Netherlands. I have just completed a one month internship at the V&A Museum of Childhood. As I have done a lot of work on optical toys in my own museum, my job was to sort out the shelves of optical toys in the Museum of Childhood’s Store Six.

Magic Lantern

Continue reading

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An Irish-Cockney Village in the East End

Ellen Delay’s attendance medal, 1900. B.14-1995

This medal was awarded to Ellen Delay, a pupil at St Patrick’s School, Wapping in 1900. It’s a bit different from the medals awarded by the School Board for London I wrote about here. It has no portrait of the Queen, and the metal is a bit lighter. The name of the student is engraved, but so is the year, which suggests they weren’t minted annually. And also, significantly, the name of the school is included. Continue reading

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Never Absent, Never Late

School Attendance Medals in the Museum of Childhood

The British state first became seriously involved in the schooling of its citizens in 1870. A series of inquiries and investigations over the previous decade had revealed an education system of great complexity, supported by structures of inequality and incompetence. To resolve this, the Elementary Education Act of 1870 took the responsibility away from families and gave it to local councils. It was now down to these elected officials to ensure every child had access to a school place (and not just those children from professional or artisan families). In order to provide these places, local authorities were required to establish School Boards, which in turn could build and staff new schools.[1] Continue reading

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Child Education Magazine

These rich illustrations by Linda Birch and Monique Partridge come from one of the Museum’s most recent acquisitions. Continue reading

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