Today started off with a visit to East London (read here). Notsile, Sarah, and I had already walked through the Brick Lane/Shoreditch area just last week (read here), but it was nice to walk through it once again and hear more about the history behind the location.
After a quick tour of East London, Andrew took us to our final stop for the day: the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood! The red brick building, located in Bethnal Green, is a branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the country’s national museum of applied arts. Founded in 1972, according to Wikipedia it’s mission is “to enable everyone, especially the young, to explore and enjoy the designed world, in particular objects made for and made by children.”
Upon entering the museum, we were immediately confronted with large toy displays and games that I clearly remember playing with during my childhood – a sign that the museum, while geared towards children of the UK, also attempts at international relations.
One of my favorite displays was the Confiscation Cabinets – a collection of forbidden items collected by artist and teacher Guy Tarrant from 150 different London primary and secondary schools over the course of three decades. While several items were non-recognizable to me (though most likely well-known to children from the UK), the majority of the confiscated items reminded me of my childhood.
Of course, while walking around the first floor I encountered a life-sized Robbie the Robot. As a clockwork toy, Robbie will ‘come alive’ if a child (or someone with an inner child like me) connects the loose cogs on his back together. Unfortunately I did not have the patience to try all other possibilities, so after struggling for a few minutes I had to let Robbie go.
Going up one floor I noticed the large artwork of children singing playground songs, hung on the wall by the staircase. Aptly named The Singing Playground, artist Dan Jones created it using mixed media on paper in 2004. According to the description, “the painting features games from over 50 countries and songs in many languages” and is also “Dan’s eighth and biggest playground painting”…so far. Unfortunately I was not able to find a Filipino song, so either 1) I was not looking hard enough, or 2) one does not exist.
The second floor had a large collection of boardgames, and I was able to play a quick game of Snakes and Ladders with Cassia before we had to leave. I also noticed the Hangman board game in one of the glass display cases, close to the “1977 Wari Board” from the Philippines, which is used to play Mancala (aka Sungka)!
I was a bit weirded out by the existence of a ‘War Games’ display, especially after attending the theatrical performance of Oh, What a Lovely War (read here). According to the exhibit description, “these toys don’t just represent war. They are also used as tools of propaganda to communicate deeper political and social messages about war. They can instill in children a sense of militarism and nationalism…” which I found disturbing after having read and attended the performance of 1984 at the Almeida theatre (read here).
When our class tour was finished for the day, I quickly headed home because I had a couple of response papers to write for Steven’s theatre class (not including the final paper, which I hope to have finished before Spring Break). It was looking like a late night – as usual – but I can always dream of getting to bed before midnight!