View across the Design Gallery. Image by Picture Plane © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Work has begun on a £13m reimagining of the Grade II* listed V&A Museum of Childhood in London, which will become the Young V&A when it reopens in 2023.
The new development, designed with and for 0–14-year-olds, will create a place to play, create, debate and design for tomorrow, as it becomes the ‘UK’s premier national museum entirely dedicated to children’.
Inspire young people
Young V&A’s mission will be ‘to inspire young people with the creative ingenuity of design, to empower educators and to act as a leader in child-centred museum practice’.
The museum, located in Bethnal Green, East London, was founded in 1872 as the Bethnal Green Museum and will celebrate 150 years in the area next year.
View across the Adventure display in the Imagine Gallery. Image by Picture Plane © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
To celebrate this 150th anniversary the Young V&A team will be engaging every school in the borough of Tower Hamlets – offering creative assemblies, running workshops with students, teacher forums, and developing new activities for families with local organisations.
Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt, said: “[Young V&A is] a world-class museum that nurtures curiosity, experimentation and celebrates play, Young V&A will be a global champion for children’s creativity in all its forms.
“This vital investment – working to counter the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on young people’s access to creative education, collaborative play, and artistic inspiration – is more urgent than ever.”
Entirely new visitor experience
View across the Town Square. Image by Picture Plane © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The plans include:
- Three new galleries Play, Imagine and Design
- interactive collection displays drawing on the full scope of the V&A collections
- a suite of dedicated workshops for learning
- an in-gallery design studio for visitors
- a redesigned visitor experience including a new café and shop.
New acquisitions have also been announced today to demonstrate the power of creativity to shape and improve lives.
New acquisitions for display include:
Sky Brown at the Olympics at Ariake Urban Park, Tokyo. Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images
- A skateboard owned by 13-year-old Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Sky Brown.
- Garments from Bethany Williams’ Spring/Summer 2021 in collaboration with grassroots organiation supporting women and children
- The world’s most affordable multi-grip prosthetic arm – The Hero Arm – designed for children and adults,
- A selection of linocut ‘Woodism’ prints from a moving project between a father and son
Sky Brown said: “I’m so excited that my skateboard will go on show at Young V&A and love the idea of a museum that only exists to inspire young people and help them discover their superpowers. The sky is the limit!”
The transformation of the museum includes the reuse of materials across the project from demolition rubble to repurposed elements of past V&A exhibitions.
Any free-standing display cases that the museum is using have been donated to museums and galleries across the country including the National Motor Museum and Poldark Tin Mine Heritage site, with the remainder to be reused within the new scheme with all other display cases fully recycled.
Working in partnership with young people
The Young V&A Collective brings together groups of 11–14-year-olds to build skills as they develop creative responses to the themes and collections of the new museum, supported by artist-mentors who will co-create new artworks with them.
During redevelopment work, the Young Collective is taking place in partnership with Poplar’s youth space, Spotlight, with termly opportunities for new groups of 11-14s to join.
Dr Helen Charman, V&A Director of Learning, National Programmes and Young V&A, said: “Today we mark a momentous milestone in the evolution of its identity and underscore its core purpose – to champion, nurture, and inspire the innovators of tomorrow and build creative confidence in the young. We can’t wait to reopen the doors.”
New home for the collections
View of the Games room in the Play Gallery at Young V&A. Image by Picture Plane (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The National Childhood Collection, previously stored below ground at the museum, will now move to V&A East Storehouse, which opens in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2024.
The collection comprises over 33,000 objects from miniature dolls house furniture to a four-metre- high sixteenth century Italian Marionette theatre. Its relocation enables almost half of Young V&A’s back-of-house space to be repurposed into the new learning.
Young V&A Designer of the Year
The museum is also building its offer for creative professionals and will establish a Young V&A Designer in Residence in 2022. The resident designer will use the Young V&A collections and gallery themes to inspire their practice and to undertake research into child-centred, inclusive design processes, informing the museum’s thinking and future programmes.
The call out for the residency will go live on 6 October 2021.
About the author – Adrian Murphy
Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.