The Childhood Cube – creation and conservation

Through 1998 and 1999 Sarah Raphael worked with schoolchildren to make this intricate and absorbing sculpture, to be displayed in the Millennium Dome. It is a metal cubic grid, six squares wide by six high and six deep, making 216 little rooms. Each of these was furnished with inventions, characters and actions by Raphael and her young collaborators.

Sarah Raphael in her studio with the Childhood Cube, courtesy CliveJames.com

Sarah Raphael in her studio with the Childhood Cube, courtesy CliveJames.com

Raphael was primarily a painter, of great reputation and growing fame. Continue reading

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Junk and Adventure – 20th century playground archive

Notting Hill Adventure Playground, c.1960 (c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum, London

Notting Hill Adventure Playground, c.1960 (c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum, London

In August 2014, the V&A Museum of Childhood acquired the Donne Buck Archive of Play and Playgrounds. This internationally significant collection records the practice, people and politics of adventure play in Britain over six decades.

Over the next few months, I’ll be working on sharing more of this incredible collection online, so for now, here’s an introduction to the riches in store…

Donne Buck has been a playleader and campaigner for children’s right to play since the 1950s. A significant figure in the history of play, in his long career Donne has established and run adventure playgrounds in London, Stevenage and Peterborough. He has been an active campaigner for children’s rights and promoted the importance of play in education and social development, working with central government, local councils and international agencies. His extensive archive documents his personal role alongside the national picture of play in Britain.  Continue reading

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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

Peek-a-boo!

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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Plum Jam and Slapstick

Lionel Hemsley’s school days

Beach Photo

It is hard work finding evidence for the thoughts and feelings of children in the past.  Letters and diaries are rare and often don’t survive. However, this year I was delighted to meet Lionel Hemsley, who had kept a precious stash of documents from his schooldays during the Second World War. I was even more delighted when he offered to donate them to the Museum!

Lionel Hemsley with school friends. Image (C)V&A Museum, London

Lionel Hemsley with school friends. Image (C)V&A Museum, London

Continue reading

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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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Recollection

Mary B.313-1994

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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