V&A Museum of Childhood

What to expect from the £13m V&A Museum of Childhood overhaul

Article: David Styles | Image: Architectural Render of the Museum's new Town Square © AOC

New plans for the redeveloped V&A Museum of Childhood have been revealed, with the site scheduled to close in May before reopening in 2022 following the construction work.

The V&A has revealed further details and images of what visitors can expect from the reimagined Museum of Childhood when it emerges from a two-year renovation.

A refreshed free-to-access collection set within new interactive gallery spaces will host works ranging from Beatrix Potter illustrations through to contemporary pieces by the likes of Olafur Eliasson.

The new Museum of Childhood will “nurture the potential of future generations and become a global champion of children’s creativity”, according to Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A.

“We want to empower children to realise that every act of creativity is wondrous, whether it’s self-expression through their clothes, building a world on Minecraft, or launching a school climate strike,” he added. “By bringing together the V&A’s world-class collections with immersive displays anchored in children’s every-day lives, we will offer an outstanding day out for families, for free.”

A child campaigning against climate change at a Museum of Childhood Extinction Rebellion Display © Lucy Cartwright
Little Sun Solar Lamp © Studio Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson, whose Little Sun solar lamp will feature in one of the Museum’s new exhibitions, said: “My best childhood memories of museums are of places that made me felt seen and heard, where I was taken seriously, and my views respected. The revitalised V&A Museum of Childhood is one such institution, as its programme centres around design and creativity for children.

“Young people understand very well what is happening to our planet. They see that the best way to shape the future, to re-imagine our world, is through design and creativity. I am proud that my Little Sun solar lamp will feature in the new exhibit. I hope it can inspire young visitors to engage with sustainable energy solutions and come up with their own ideas for how to improve access to energy.”

Sneak peek

Concept designs have targeted a building filled with ‘natural light, vibrant colour, and playful, multi-sensory environments’. Planning permission and Listed Building Consent was granted in 2019. Since then the design proposals have been refined courtesy of more than 40 co-design sessions with local schoolchildren, teachers, SEND and community groups and families.

What's new?

The redeveloped Museum will feature:

  • Three new galleries
  • The main hall reimagined as The Town Square, a central social space in the Museum
  • A new 125-person-capacity performance space called The Stage
  • A large-scale alphabet display running the length of PLAY, along with new interactive displays and sandpits
  • DESIGN will feature The Designer’s House, a new home for a relaunched artist-in-residency programme
Architectural render for the three-storey Museum of Childhood © AOC

New programming scheduled by the Museum includes: a major two-year partnership with Idea Store Whitechapel which will provide free activities for local families; a museum-first learning residency at two local schools; and a series of special events and commissions in the run-up to its 2022 reopening.

“We need spaces for children that are designed to spark their imaginations and own creative ideas,” Cressida Cowell, Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate and author of How to Train Your Dragon, noted. “The UK needs creative kids; it also needs future creative adults in every single industry.”