Museum of Childhood’s £13m transformation – to Young V&A

Work has begun on the £13m transformation of the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, East London. It is due to reopen in 2023.

The Grade II* listed building formerly stood in South Kensington and was the original home of the V&A there, built as temporary accommodation and deigned by Royal Engineers architects. The iron building moved to the East End in 1872 and was a general museum with changing display themes, until it was designated the Museum of Childhood in 1974, housing a world-famous collection of dolls’ houses. It was refurbished in 2004-5.

Designed now for children aged 0 to 14, the museum is to be renamed Young V&A and will be a place to play, create and debate, entirely dedicated to children with a new mission to inspire young people with the creative ingenuity of design, to empower educators and to act as a leader in child-centred museum practice.

There are to be three new galleries, Play, Imagine and Design; interactive collection displays drawing on the full scope of the V&A collections; a suite of dedicated workshops for learning; an in-gallery design studio for visitors; and a redesigned visitor experience including a new café and shop.

The National Childhood Collection, with its 33,000 objects from miniature dolls to a 4-metre high 16th century Italian marionette theatre, which was stored below ground at the museum, is to move to V&A East Storehouse which opens in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2024. 

New acquisitions will be highlights of the display at Bethnal Green, including a skateboard owned by Olympic medallist Sky Brown, children’s clothing from the  new collection of fashion designer Bethany Williams, and the Hero Arm - a prosthetic  limb designed to transform disability into power.

“A world-class museum that nurtures curiosity, experimentation and celebrates play, Young V&A will be a global champion for children’s creativity in all its forms” said the V&A’s director, Tristram Hunt. “This vital investment – working to counter the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on young people’s access to creative education, collaborative play, and artistic inspiration – is more urgent than ever. I am delighted we are one step closer to reopening the museum’s doors in 2023.”

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