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The Invention of Childhood - Weblinks

Updated Friday, 15th September 2006

If you'd like to find out more about childhood and museums relating to children, we've gathered together a selection for you to explore. Take a look at our list of related weblinks.

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16th century domestic scene - Bodleian Library Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Bodleian Library

We've a selection of websites relating to children and childhood to take your interest further, take a look at:

Schooling and work
Children's Charities
Museums of Childhood and Toy museums
Costume

Schooling and work
A number of museums and community projects around the country offer a real sense of what life was like for children and young people in school, at work and in the community at different times in the past. Here is just a selection:

The Ragged School Museum a free school for poor children – started by Dr Thomas Barnado in 1868 in Limehouse in the East End of London.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, children from the local workhouse provided a source of cheap labour for the cotton spinning mill at Styal in Cheshire: The Quarry Bank Mill

In the early nineteenth century, the social reformer Robert Owen established a school as part of a mill at New Lanark in Scotland which was to prove a model of its kind.

Life for children during the Second World War is the focus of The Children's War exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London:

Children’s Charities
Barnado's
In the late 1860s, Dr Thomas Barnado was so affected by the plight of destitute children in London that he decided to devote his energies to helping them. The history and present-day activities of the charity that bears his name are described here.

Thomas Coram Foundation 
The Coram Family claims to be England's oldest children's charity. It has been working continuously with deprived and disadvantaged children since 1739 when Captain Thomas Coram established The Foundling Hospital to provide care for the homeless children he found living and dying on the streets of London.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
The NSPCC was founded in 1884 in order to draw government and public attention to the problem of cruelty to children and to provide children with the protection they deserved. The history of the NSPCC is described here.

Save the Children
Save the Children was founded in 1919, as a response to conditions of malnutrition and disease in Europe immediately following the First World War. The organisation’s history is described here.

Museums of Childhood and Toy museums
One part of the history of childhood can be traced through the objects that are an integral part of children’s lives: toys, games, books, domestic furniture, child care equipment and so on. Here are some of the principal collections in the UK. In addition, there are a number of smaller collections with childhood themes in museums and gallerys around the country. These can often be reached via local tourism websites, take a look at this website relating to museums.

Museum of Childhood
The Museum of Childhood, part of the Victoria & Albert family of museums, encourages everyone to explore the themes of childhood, past and present. It houses the national childhood collection which includes toys; dolls; games and child care artefacts such as cradles, rattles, prams and feeding equipment from the 1600s to the present day. The museum also has the largest public collection of children's costume in the UK. As well as dresses, shoes, coats and trousers the collection includes accessories, underwear, nightwear, fancy dress, uniforms, and clothes for baptism and mourning.

Note: Museum is closed for re-development until Sat 9 December 2006

Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh
This museum, opened in 1955, claims to be the first museum in the world to specialise in the history of childhood. On display are toys and games of all kinds from many parts of the world. Other features are a 1930s school room and an opportunity to watch the street games of Edinburgh children of the 1950s.

Pollock's Toy Museum, London
A fascinating exhibition of toy theatres (the museum takes its name from Benjamin Pollock, the last of the Victorian Toy Theatre printers), teddy bears, wax and china dolls, board games, optical toys, folk toys, nursery furniture, mechanical toys and dolls' houses.

Note that the museum underwent changes in 2004. It is now managed by members of the family that originally established it.

Museum of Childhood, Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire
This museum, opened in the 1970s, is part of Sudbury Hall, a National Trust property in Derbyshire. The museum features displays about children from the 18th century onwards, together with an extensive collection of toys, games and dolls. Note that the museum will be closed for refurbishment throughout 2007.

West Wales Museum of Childhood
A museum offering a selection of children's toys through the ages.

Museum of Childhood Memories, Beaumaris, North Wales
A privately run museum with exhibits arranged around a number of themes: entertainment; pottery and glass; clockwork tin plate toys; toy money boxes and arcade machines; teddy bears, nursery furniture and push along toys; rocking horses and early cycles, dolls' houses.

Costume
Children's clothing across the centuries provides interesting clues as to their lives and status in the family and society. Most clothes don’t survive the test of time – they are either worn to destruction and thrown away or the material deteriorates and disintegrates. However, some examples survive and can be seen in museums such as the Museum of Costume in Bath and the Museum of Childhood in London. Other examples, mostly from middle and upper class children’s wardrobes, are on display in stately homes.

A further valuable source of information about what children wore are portraits of families and of individual children. Indeed, portraits can sometimes be dated on the strength of style features of the sitter’s dress.

 

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