Exploring Childhoods Project

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

With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) we can now expand our collections to better represent late twentieth and early twenty-first century childhoods.

In the next five years we’ll be working with local community groups and schools, as well as developing new volunteer opportunities, to help us make important decisions on which objects represent childhoods from this era in the best way possible.

We’ll have a new community panel advising us on all stages of the project and a new outreach programme to take our collections beyond the museum walls. Volunteers will also have the chance to get involved in research and other new roles that have been created.

We hope to create solid partnerships and stronger collections. The museum will keep evolving through this exciting journey and as we receive new objects for the collection they'll go on display for everyone to enjoy. Watch out for new exhibitions too.

We’re really looking forward to seeing the changes!

Latest updates

10 Apr 19

Smarties and space men...

It’s been a month of preparing for exhibitions, our collaboration with the Royal School for the Deaf draws closer, filming is complete and is being edited. The interpretation is finalised and is about to be sent to the printers, we will be recovering all the boards and also the open storage window in the project gallery. The plinths have arrived, the objects have been gathered and the handling items are being prepared. The exhibition will open on the 4 May. The school is also due to visit for their official opening event on the 15 May. We have also added some more sweet and chocolate themed acquisitions to the display in the case at the bottom of the museum stairs. Among them are an earlier example of a Smarties tube, from the 1970s, a Kit Kat wrapper and some colourful plastic sweet containers. Alongside this and in readiness for the summer theme we’ve been researching and acquiring a group of space themed items. We’ve successfully obtained a classic tin ‘fighting robot’ and a rare Action Man Space Ranger ‘ROM’ figure, known from the Marvel comic books, as well as space themed walkie-talkies, a space rocket toy and a full astronaut dressing up set! We’ve added more ‘labels’ written by the visitors to the displays in the project gallery. We’re always impressed with the insight that our visitors have and their fantastic memories! We have also enjoyed seeing the Lego creations made by our visitors. We’ve received lots of positive feedback about having more handling items in the gallery. The Fisher Price record player appears to be extremely popular!

New item in the exploring childhoods collection, vintage smartie tubes

28 Feb 19

Video games galore

February has been another month with a full gallery redisplay, this time of Gallery 8. With the help of an excellent volunteer from the University of Derby, we’ve put together an exciting new exhibition displaying video game history. We’ve been able to include some project acquisitions, such as our SNES and Nintendo Donkey Kong game, but also some items that have come in as donations in the past year. To top this off, we’re using the exhibition to trial the addition of a playable multigame arcade machine in the museum. Donkey Kong and Pacman appear to be the favourites so far. New acquisitions this month have included a second version of the chocolate machine money box. This one is a pre-decimal version, which accepts 1d and is a contrast to the decimal version we acquired last month, which accepts 2p. We’re reliably informed that it was quite easy to remove a chocolate without actually putting the coin in the box! We have also found an excellent example of a 1980s child’s shell suit. This is an item that we’ve been hoping to add for some time and we’re really pleased that we’ve been able to find the right one. We had another brilliant session with the Royal School for the Deaf Derby early on in the month. A group came on to site to learn about the museum and plan out the exhibition that we are producing jointly with them later in the year. We had the help of an interpreter on the day, but our Learning Officer is coming on in leaps and bounds with iBSL. She’s taken her first exam and has shared her knowledge by teaching us ways to say greetings and thanks. Our new outreach collection continues to be well utilised by our Learning team, who spent some more time out at the hospital in Derby giving patients the opportunity to access our collections. In particular we are very well placed to work with Dementia patients, who benefit hugely from reminiscing about their childhoods.

Girl playing on an arcade machine in the Museum of Childhood

16 Jan 19

New exhibitions!

We are speeding in to 2019 with a big change around in the Project Gallery. We have had lots of help from Sudbury volunteers, and some of them have been using their newly gained packing training skills to help us pack away the Black Dolls exhibit. The new gallery will be put together in a ‘project lab’ style and will develop over time. It will be an excellent opportunity to show our new collection of road safety items, which were collected last year and have not been on display yet. Visitors will be also able to have a go at writing labels and enjoy playing with some vintage toys. Alongside this, we are prepping for a display of Computer gaming objects helped by a History student from Derby University. Owen, who is in his third year at university, is putting together displays for gallery 8, which will be ready in time for February half term. We hope that our visitors will enjoy some innovative activities in the gallery – watch this space! This month we will also be visited by Royal School for the Deaf Derby, who will be formulating ideas for their exhibition, which opens in April. They have already produced some film, which is highly interesting to watch, we are looking forward to seeing what else they come up with! Lastly, and not just because it reminds us of all the sweets treats we consumed over Christmas and New Year, we have made the first object purchase of the year: a ‘Chocolate Machine’! Made by the ‘Peter Pan’ company, and one of a number of versions produced in the 1970s and 80s, this one takes 2p to release a mini chocolate bar.

Road safety badges in the museum collection at the National Trust Museum of Childhood