26 Treasures of Childhood

If you go down to east London next week, you’re sure of a pleasant surprise.

Michael Rosen has written a sestude on Muffin the Mule

Source: V and A

Michael Rosen has written a sestude on Muffin the Mule

If, that is, your sojourn takes in Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood, and it’s Modern British Childhood show.

The exhibition will explore how childhood has transformed in Britain during the period between the London Olympic Games of 1948 and 2012, looking at issues in education, health, family, entertainment, fashion and play.

Providing new angles on the show is writers’ group 26, which has written 62 word pieces in response to the objects on show.

NHS Glasses
NHS Glasses

Children form the nearby Rushmore Primary School in Hackney have worked with the Hoxton-based Ministry of Stories group, and also looked to the objects for inspiration, creating their own written responses to 21st objects display with the works from 26.

Teddyfone
Teddyfone

The more youthful scribes have written about such varied objects as a hijab, a Game Boy and a padded trainer bra; with one ten-year-old girl imagining being ‘the dreaded MMR’ vaccine’.

Another has penned a piece on eco-nappies, and showing a nascent comedic touch, instructs that the piece is read ‘out loud in a posh accent.’ Here’s looking at you, Stoke Newington.

Milk Bottle
Milk Bottle

Among the last-century pieces that 26 have put pen to paper about are Muffin the Mule, a cane and a Chopper bike.

The 26 Collective has worked on similar projects since 2010, creating written responses to museum pieces with the aim of creating more persona, creative labels for exhibits.

Fiona Thompson, one of the organisers of 26 Treasures, says, ‘Rob Self-Pierson [another 26 collective writer] wanted to look at how to get more ordinary people into the museum. Instead of looking at an object in a glass case we wanted people to engage a bit more with the objects, and the written responses show one person’s very personal experience.’

Childrens Rights
Childrens Rights

Thompson responded to Lego and Fuzzy Felt for the Museum of Childhood project. ‘My sister always liked Lego more than I did, so I’d swap it with her if I was given any’, she says.

‘I wrote a piece about rainy Sunday afternoons with me playing with fuzzy Felt and her playing with Lego – people says it sounds like I had a really boring childhood, but I always had a lovely time playing with it!’

The pieces in the exhibition, shown alongside TV and film footage and photography, create part of the complicated jigsaw that narrates the huge changes in childrens’ lives over the past 64 years, offering nostalgia and knowledge that dramatizes the gulf between growing up now and then.

Here’s a piece by Ian Douglas about Scalextric:

Scalextric
Scalextric

And Lorelei Mathias’ response to Sylvanian Families:

Lorelei Mathias' piece on the Sylvanian Families.

Source: V and A

Lorelei Mathias’ piece on the Sylvanian Families.

Modern British Childhood runs from 13 October  – 14 April 2013 at the V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2

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