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

15 May 19

Royal School for the Deaf, Derby, open their exhibition

And it’s here… ‘Host School: Royal School for the Deaf Derby’ has opened! The exhibition was formally opened by a visit from the pupils and teachers who have worked with us to produce this new project. It’s been a wonderful journey to get to this point, filled with insights and experiences for the pupils as well as for National Trust staff. The children have learnt about the past and engaged with stories from the childhoods of members of their community. We’ve learnt just how important it is to be a space in which communities can share their experiences directly with the public. Lucy Noble, a teacher from the school expressed at the opening that “Royal School of the Deaf is now on the map, it’s now on show, we can be proud of our school”. We hope to continue working with them in the future. This isn’t all we’ve been up to… Project volunteers have been collating the labels and comments from the project gallery. We’ve received so many great comments! A couple of our current favourites are: “I still have my Aulos recorder. I break it out from time to time and impress my friends.” And “I really, really, really like my Lego. So do my parents.” Also, one that has appeared in the gallery in response to being asked to share your thoughts on your childhood: “My brother got a rubber stuck up his nose.” We hope that he managed to get it out! Acquiring new objects for the collection continues. The project is making huge progress in making our collections more representable of childhoods in the mid to late 20th century. This month we’ve added a Fairy Liquid bottle from the 1960s – it might not instantly say childhood (unless you were tasked with the washing up as a daily chore!), but many of us were inspired by programmes such as Blue Peter to make toys with household items such as this bottle. We hope that this item will be on display soon as part of our space themed displays which are planned for gallery 8.

Opening Event for the Royal School for the Deaf, Derby, Exhibition

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