Museum of Childhood becomes Young V&A in £13m transformation

The redesigned space for young people, which will feature an in-gallery design studio, is set to open in 2023.

The V&A Museum of Childhood has been renamed Young V&A, as the space undergoes a £13m change to become a “a place to play, create, debate and design for tomorrow”.

Based in East London, the redesigned museum hopes to become the “UK’s premier national museum entirely dedicated to children” aged up to 14 years, according to the V&A. It has a planned reopening date of 2023.

A render of the Imagine gallery

The plans include three new galleries called Play, Imagine and Design as well as interactive display collection. The V&A describes Imagine as an “amphitheatre-style stage”, Play as a “free-play construction area” while Design offers visitors the chance to interact with a working design studio.

There will also be a new café and shop. Details about the new areas were outlined in a Design Week article published earlier this year.

More “urgent than ever”

A render of an exhibition at the Imagine gallery

V&A director Tristram Hunt calls the change a “vital investment” which will help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on young people. Increasing “young people’s access to creative education, collaborative play, and artistic inspiration” is more “urgent than ever”, he adds.

The V&A has also revealed new acquisitions which have been chosen as representative of the “social and environmental issues facing young generations”, the museum explains.

A render of the stage area within the Imagine gallery

These include a skateboard owned by Britain’s youngest-ever Olympic athlete Sky Brown, who made her debut at Tokyo 2020 this past summer.

Other new objects include a multi-grip prosthetic arm – designed for children and adults – and clothes from sustainably-focused fashion designer Bethany Williams.

The Design gallery render

The project has been a few years in the making. Architecture team De Matos Ryan was appointed in 2018 to come up with the build design. AOC Architecture is responsible for the fit-out.

Existing museum materials have been reused for the reimagined space, explains the V&A, including demolition rubble and elements of past V&A exhibition spaces. Displays that could not be reused have been donated to museums across the country.

“Creative responses to the themes and collections of the new museum”

A render of the toddler zone

As well as the name change, the V&A has also announced a series of workshops and schemes in an attempt to encourage young people’s engagement with design. Young V&A Collective will provide a network for 11-14 year olds where they can “develop creative responses to the themes and collections of the new museum”, the V&A says.

The rebranded museum will also establish a Young V&A Designer in Residence in 2022. The opening call for this residency will go live 6 October 2021, and the chosen designer will make use of the museum’s collection and “undertake research into child-centred, inclusive design processes”, the V&A adds.

A render of Young V&A’s interiors

The Young V&A team will also be running workshops with local schools to engage with the redeveloped space ahead of its opening.

The museum’s previous items will be rehoused to make way for the new workshop and exhibition spaces. The 33,000 objects which make up the National Childhood Collection – consisting of doll’s house furniture and miniature theatres – at V&A East Storehouse, which opens in 2024.

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