Museum of Childhood reopens following first makeover in 30 years

The world’s first ever museum dedicated to the history of childhood has reopened following a five-month revamp to its main ground floor gallery.

Museum of Childhood
Ollie Mackenzie-Paterson, Elise Blair, Thomas Bird, all age 5, visit the refurbished venue for the first time

The circa £200,000 refurbishment of the City of Edinburgh Council's Museum of Childhood is the first major upgrade to the Royal Mile based attraction for more than 30 years. 

Some of the first families to visit the updated venue joined Edinburgh's Culture and Communities Convener Donald Wilson at a special event to thank supporters and contributors and to mark the re-opening today (pictured, Friday 9 March).

Opened in 1955, the Museum boasts an impressive collection of toys, games and artefacts relating to British childhoods spread over five floors.

The makeover has allowed the museum to fully refit its main ground floor gallery, with a welcoming display of new display cabinets, lights and fittings. A colourful 'building blocks' design features interactive exhibits tracking changing childhoods while a dressing-up area and tee-pee in a new imaginary play area offers families the chance to play together. 

Tracking the lives of children in Scotland through the decades, a new digital display asks visitors to flick through a photo album of archive images and family photographs generously donated by local families from across the city.

Councillor Donald Wilson, the City of Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Convener, said: “With over 225,000 visitors every year, the Museum is one of Edinburgh’s flagship venues. Its impressive collection of more than 60,000 objects reflecting childhoods from the 18th century to the present day has been recognised as of National Importance by the Scottish Government, which has generously funded much of the refit through Museums Galleries Scotland grants.

“The refurbishment allows us to tell the story of childhood in new ways on the ground floor, and engage young people in Edinburgh in the history of these objects and how they relate to Scotland’s shared social history. It has also provided us with an opportunity to include local families, who have donated many personal photographs and memories towards a new digital photo album display.

"I am particularly pleased the opening hours of the Museum of Childhood - and our other city centre museums and galleries - will be increased later this year thanks to the Council's Coalition Budget commitment towards the venues. We have agreed the Museum of Childhood will be open seven days a week, as of this summer, which means everyone will be able to enjoy the new space all year round."

The reopening of the Museum is a major highlight in the Scottish Government's Year of Young People 2018.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland has a rich cultural heritage and our many wonderful museums play a vital role in telling that story. Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood is a fantastic example of that and I am delighted that the Scottish Government, through Museums Galleries Scotland, has been able to support the redevelopment of this much-loved museum through more than £95,000 in funding.

“2018 is the Scottish Government's themed Year of Young People and this reopening provides the opportunity for the Museum to engage with new young audiences, making the most of a Collection which has been awarded Recognition status due to its national significance.”

The new area presents visitors with 60 newly displayed objects documenting blasts from the past like Muffin the Mule, the first star of children's television, to favourite toys which last the test of time including a Buzz Lightyear action figure from 2000 and a Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone from 1979.

Stark reminders that Britain was the last country in Europe to abolish corporal punishment in schools are provided, with a tawse leather strap used in Scottish schools on display, while a cabinet of children's clothing highlights changing fashions, with a Victorian Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, girls’ corset from the early 20th century and a 1950s summer dress, taking centre stage.

Lyn Stevens, Museum of Childhood Curator, added: “What is childhood, when does it end, and how has it changed over the decades? These are the questions we asked ourselves as we delved into the city’s collection of over 60,000 objects to choose 60 for the new entrance gallery. Objects which really encapsulate changes to family life, play and learning over time. We hope the new space will serve as a place to reflect on these questions, and learn about key moments and turning points which have led us to where we are now and how we experience life as a child, parent, and grandparent today.” 

The refurbishment has been led by Leith-based design practice, Studioarc, which has aimed to create a playful space for visitors.

Lyndsey Bowditch, Director of Studioarc, said: “As a listed 18th century building on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood is an exceptional space in itself. For years people have wandered through its many floors, gazing into cases crammed full of memories of childhood, but this refurbishment was an opportunity to broaden the venue’s appeal to a modern audience. 

“We wanted to retain that wonderful element of nostalgia and the joy of exploring the Museum as visitors take a journey through childhood - but we have stripped it back, creating an open, fresh ground floor to give the amazing objects a proper space to shine. Studioarc’s design aims to promote playfulness, and to appeal to the curious child in all of us. We are delighted to have worked on such a unique project with such broad appeal.” 

Do you have any comments about this page?

Help us improve

  • The City of Edinburgh Council will only use this email address to respond to any issues raised.