A history of how the lives of children has changed since the end of WW2 should be a fantastic nostalia-fest that would appeal to any adult. From simple tin toys, through the earliest mass market collectables, arcade games and modern teen icons.

Anyone visiting should be able to walk over to at least part of the collection and sigh wistfully in fond memories.

Personally I was looking forward to seeing the Raleigh Chopper, my first bicycle when I moved to the UK. I wanted it because it was different to all the others, and had absolutely no idea of the Easy Rider inspired cultural baggage that the design encompassed.

A pity they couldn’t have done something more sensible with the “do not touch” sign than plonking it right in the middle of the exhibit.

Modern British Childhood

The rest of the exhibition runs from the era of Muffin the Mule to the Teletubbies, although I doubt anyone owned toy Teletubbies the size of the ones on display.

Sadly, this is a vast space given over to a few actual exhibits and a lot of information boards.

The most jarring thing though was those information boards. While the history of the rise of state education and the welfare state cannot avoid politics, the information boards seemed to have been written by someone with an agenda to promote the glories of Labour governments and the evils of Tories undoing the good works of Labour politicians.

For example, a display given over to Thatcher the Milk Snatcher omitted the fact that Wilson’s 1968 Labour government had already taken the milk away from secondary school pupils. I would expect a historical exhibition to be less political and more balanced – and informative.

I came away from the rest of the exhibition feeling like I had just visited a stand at the Labour Party Conference.

Modern British Childhood

The exhibition, Modern British Childhood is at the V&A Museum of Childhood until April 2013. Entry is free.


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  1. Kevin says:

    I’m guessing this is a free exhibition as it doesn’t look as good as paid ones I’ve been to.
    Sad when people can’t give a balanced political view in things like this.

  2. @AboutLondon says:

    My first thought was where is everyone? Doesn’t look like the kids are interested in this part of the museum!

  3. Jamina says:

    It does seem like the Museum’s special exhibitions are a bit hit and miss,from my own experiences, and what you’ve written. I like the museum of itself though.

  4. Gillian Lawrence says:

    I have never met anyone who’s visited that museum. I dislike it. Toys are for joy. No feelings of that in that sacred place.

  5. Andrew says:

    Perhaps the architecture and history of the museum is more interesting than the exhibits? The buildings were the original “Brompton Boilers” that housed the V&A for about 9 years before they were dismantled and moved to Bethnal Green in 1866. The Bethnal Green outpost of the V&A housed exhibits from the 1851 Great Exhibition, and the Wallace Collection for a time, and various other temporary exhibitions, before it became the Museum of Chilldhood.

    Charles Dickens’ son wrote about the opening in “All The Year Round” in 1872 – http://www.mernick.org.uk/thhol/sightsee.html

  6. Eddie Willers says:

    “I would expect a historical exhibition to be less political and more balanced”

    Difficult to achieve, given the politicized, left-leaning state of tertiary education over the last 40 years or so.

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