Exploring Childhoods Project

A display of pictures of toys in the National Trust Museum of Childhood

Exploring Childhoods was a National Lottery Heritage Fund project as part of the Collecting Cultures programme. Throughout the project the museum held successful exhibitions partnering with local groups, including Sudbury Primary School and The Royal School for the Deaf, Derby, and with other museums such as Museumand, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum.

The project funding enabled the acquisition of a wide variety of exciting objects, including an iconic enemy of the Doctor and magical film props which found their way to Sudbury all the way from Hogwarts. Outreach formed part of the project too. With the support of Air Arts, a programme of workshops at local hospitals was developed where dementia patients were able to engage with a variety of toys from their own childhoods, as well as co-creating an installation for display in the museum. The project also identified some gaps in the museum’s collections, and as a result has expanded the collection in several key areas of representation such as BAME, LGBTQ+ and disability.

After five years of research, training, collecting and exhibits, the Exploring Childhoods project has come to an end. The project enabled staff, volunteers, visitors, various partners and specialists to have input into the development of the museum. The result is a museum collection which is more representative of different childhoods throughout the ages and that can interpret and tell stories in a more dynamic and relevant way. The project has also paved the way for the next phase in Sudbury’s story – becoming The Children’s Country House at Sudbury.

The Children’s Country House is being created with, for and by children, underpinned by a range of expertise and research. We want to engage children with our collections, with stories and with history by providing a playful heritage day out where children can use their natural curiosity to safely explore the property without barriers.

Keep an eye out for further updates in the coming months!

Latest updates

17 Oct 19

Chocolate and charm...

We’re pleased to announce that this month the project has been successful at auction and has acquired a Wonka Bar used in the production of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This is another major acquisition for our Exploring Childhood’s project. You may remember that last year we acquired Wonka Bars from the 2005 film version of the story, this bar will help us to tell the evolution of the story in popular culture. It is quite a rare item and has excellent provenance, having come from the collection of Julie Dawn Cole who portrayed Veruca Salt in the film. It is still to arrive with us here, so keep an eye out for photos. Alongside this we have been busy putting together the ‘Magic’ displays in the case at the bottom of the museum stairs. It was an enjoyable task to pull together items on this theme. It’s magical to have Sooty and his wand on display, and so interesting to see the contrast between the Pelham Puppet Witch and Fairy. A couple of colleagues made the journey over to Coalville for the opening of the exhibition Many Faces of Palitoy, an exploration of 100 years of the toys made by the company. We have been working closely with Coalville Historical Society, who are the community group organising the celebrations. They have helped us to choose new acquisitions and we have supported the exhibition, which will come to Sudbury in summer 2020. We have also been getting the project objects ready for documentation. Objects have been moved from the old open storage area to the new Collections Workshop to enable this to happen. Once the work is complete, they will be packed and moved to our main stores where they will be cared for until they are needed again for future displays.

Sudbury Hall Exploring Childhoods Pelham puppet witch and fairy

20 Aug 19

Sudbury is spellbound...

This month has seen another change round for the Project Gallery. It’s been a fond farewell to the ‘Host Schools: Royal School for the Deaf’ exhibition, which has been a highlight of the project and will be missed. In its place is a display of the Harry Potter related props and items acquired over the past year. A star item in the display is an autographed book, which features what may be Daniel Radcliffe’s (aka Harry Potter) first ever autograph! Alongside this are autographs and messages from Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Grainger), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Chris Columbus (Director), Roy Button OBE (Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Warner Bros Productions), as well as a number of other cast and crew. If you pop into the gallery there is the opportunity to dress up as a Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry pupil, or to disappear with the Invisibility Cloak! If you would rather sit back and relax you can sit on the sofa and read of one of the books, which includes 180 Harry Potter Spells and Quidditch Through the Ages. We are also collecting comments from visitors on our board of ‘What Harry Potter means to you’. A favourite so far being “The most magic part of my childhood was escaping to a world of magic and wizards with the help of JK Rowling. Harry Potter is still a big part of my life today.” We are continuing to work on other new displays in the museum… Including some magical displays in the case at the bottom of the museum stairs.

Signed Harry Book from Sudbury Hall's Exploring Childhoods collection

25 Jul 19

Positive thoughts and new games

We have been very busy this month acquiring more items for the collection. It’s been quite a diverse group this time and ranges from children’s leg braces acquired from a surgeon, to an early Dr Barnardo’s ‘Pansies for Thoughts’ paper fundraising badge. We’ve delved into the history of the NSPCC by collecting some of their ‘League of Pity’ badges and a medal, as well as a badge marking their 1984 centenary. We’ve added another small group of board games too, including the popular ‘Mouse Trap’ game, a 1980s ‘Dream Phone game’, a space themed ‘Blast Off’ game, and a sporty ‘Raleigh Burner BMX’ game. In other news, our evaluator has sent through some of the first findings from his evaluation visit last month. We are over the moon with some of the comments received in his interviews with visitors from our ‘Host Schools: Royal School for the Deaf Derby’ exhibition. To give you an idea of what is being said, here are some of the comments: “When you hear someone is deaf you immediately think of an older person, but it’s not, you can be born deaf…so to see an exhibition about deaf childhoods is great, it challenges those assumptions.” “My granddaughter is very young so might not realise what things are, so when we explained what the hearing aid was on the teddy bear she understood. The exhibition is great a way of learning things.” “It’s really nice to see an exhibition like this here at Sudbury; it’s great it’s involving other people.” “I want to learn more about sign language after seeing this.” “It’s really good to see the exhibition in the museum, there should be more like this. I work in the fire service and we’re applying sign language now in the workplace so can really relate to this…”

Mouse Trap board game