The Museum of Childhood in London is part of the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is located in the Bethnal Green area of London, and originally was called the Bethnal Green Museum of London. William Gladstone is the first to recommend and lobby Parliament that a museum be built in Bethnal Green.
It was not until Prince Albert advocated for the Museum that construction in began in 1868. Prince Albert formally opened opened the museum in June 1872. The museum contained marble floors in a fish scale pattern which were laid by female inmates of the Woking Gaol, and the murals were designed by F.W. Moody. The first collections were haphazard, since the Museum had no particular theme, other than to depict Britain’s cultural heritage. The most prominent exhibit had to do with Food and Animal Products.
It was curator Arthur Sabin who created the idea of a Museum of Childhood, as he watched all the bored children sauntering through the museum. Objects of interest to children began to be donated to the museum including toys from Queen Mary. During World War II, the museum closed and became a canteen for soldiers, but after the war, the museum reopened with more children’s items than before.
The V & A Childhood Museum of Childhood
It wasn’t until 1974, when the Museum of Childhood came into its own and focused entirely on childhood related items. The museum currently houses a variety of collections including exhibits of children’s clothing over the years, a collection of construction toys from the 1800’s through the present, children’s furniture, the largest collection of antique dolls in the United Kingdom and the popular dollhouse and miniature collection.
The miniature and dollhouse collection contains over 100 dollhouses with the earliest dollhouse hearkening back to the 1600’s. The earlier dollhouses were made for adults and were displayed in their homes as a sign of wealth. They may also have been used to as a visual aid to teach girls how to run households. In the 19th century most dollhouses were made as toys for children. The museum has dollhouses, models and shops, and shadow boxes.The most famous of the dollhouses in the Museum of Childhood is the Tate Baby House. The newest addition to the museum is the Kaleidoscope house built in the 21st century. The V&A Museum of Childhood is located on Cambridge Heath Road, in London. Admission to the Museum is free and the museum hours are 10:00 to 5:30 every day. On a yearly basis, the museum welcomes over 400,000 visitors.