Children join in re-design of V&A Museum of Childhood

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Local primary school children are contributing ideas to the multi-million-pound revamp of the V&A Museum of Childhood in plans to make it the ‘world’s most joyful museum for children’.


Children from local schools take part in a design workshop for the revamp at the V&A Museum of Childhood

The redevelopment is intended to make the museum more immersive and interactive and will include a re-landscaped outdoor play space.

Other plans include ‘The kaleidoscope’, a new interactive installation in the main galleries inspired by optical toys from the V&A’s collection, a new lower ground entrance to improve access for school groups and buggies, as well as restoring the original Victorian building.

Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said, ‘The V&A Museum of Childhood is beloved by its local community with a unique and wonderful story to tell as East London’s first museum.

‘This flagship project for the V&A will unlock the V&A Museum of Childhood’s huge potential to fire imagination, spark ingenuity, and become the world’s most joyful museum for children, families and young people. It will support art and design education and help fulfil the museum’s ambition to inspire future generations of artists, designers, architects, engineers and makers.’

A decision has not yet been made about whether the museum will need to close during the refurbishment, but the aim is to have the work finished in time for 2022, which will be the 150th anniversary of the building’s opening as the then Bethnal Green Museum.

The architectural practice De Matos Ryan has been working with children and community groups on the plans.

Angus Morrogh-Ryan and Jose Esteves de Matos, directors of De Matos Ryan, said, ‘This is an exciting prospect for everyone involved, and for the evolution of innovative museums for children and families of the future. For co-design with childrento be meaningful requires courage and trust – the initial ideas we’ve uncovered, working with our community groups and the V&A – are hugely exciting and reveal the museum’s true potential.’

Backing the re-development plans, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said, ‘Children’s play is a serious business. As well as having fun, play is how children discover the world around them, develop their creativity, learn new skills, and grow in confidence into rounded adults.’

New exhibition - ‘A Pirate’s Life for Me’


A carved wooden toy pirate ship from the 1920s will feature in the exhibition

A large-scale pirate ship for active play is the focus of the V&A Museum of Childhood’s first major exhibition to focus on fictional pirates and their influence in popular culture, which opens later this month.

Developed in collaboration with children, the exhibition’s immersive and playful set design takes young visitors into an imaginary swashbuckling world of adventure and exploration where they will travel from a moody coastal inn to a tropical treasure island in search of sparkling riches.treasure-island-comic-v

The exhibition features toys, games, books, illustrations and comics, spanning over 300 years.

Highlights include the first painting of Captain Pugwash, an original illustrated costume design for Captain Hook for the first production of Peter Pan in 1904, Lego’s iconic Black Seas Barracuda ship and real eighteenth century Spanish doubloons.

Will Newton, curator of the exhibition, said, ‘Children love pirates. Captain Hook, Long John Silver and Jack Sparrow are among the most enduring children’s characters ever conceived, so delving into this much-loved topic was an unmissable opportunity for the museum.

pirate-costume‘We are proud to include children’s voices at the heart of this exhibition; a celebration of creativity, mischief and adventure, as found throughout the history of pirates’ representations in popular culture.’

‘A Pirate’s Life For Me’ is the museum’s first exhibition to include a significant number of co- designed elements by The Children’s Forum, a V&A Museum of Childhood initiative in partnership with Globe Primary School in Bethnal Green. The children contributed to the exhibition set design, label text and audio-visual components. The museum also worked with Hackney Pirates, a charity that supports children’s literacy skills, on an additional audio story to help tell the story of the exhibition.

  • 'A Pirate’s Life for Me' runs from 22 October – 22 April 2019. The V&A Museum of Childhood is seeking views on its plans with a series of events during half-term on 20, 21 and 24 October. For more information go to

Images courtesy of the V&A Museum of Childhood. Exhibits include original comic books and a child's fancy dress pirate costume made between 1920 and 1939 (above right).

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