REVIEW – Museum of Childhood

Free museum

The Museum of Childhood, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

By Victoria Bamber

The City of Edinburgh is home to many museums, all of which have a unique and interesting way of portraying the story they wish to tell. One museum which does this particularly well is the Museum of Childhood, situated on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. As many would agree, childhood is a magical time; a time of learning, developing, growing and playing. The Museum of Childhood is solely dedicated to this period and it enchants its viewers in the only way it knows how; pure, innocent nostalgia – and lots of it.

With free admission, and generous opening times, the Museum of Childhood is instantly appealing to those visiting alone or as part of a group. Surprisingly roomy and with 5 floors full of artefacts, guests can easily spend a good couple of hours drifting back to a time where Muffin the Mule ruled our television screens, stamp collecting and metallic spinning tops entertained children for hours and pristine dolls with porcelain faces were to be admired from afar, out of reach from sticky fingers.

Collection of dolls

The museum is arranged in five well presented sections; ranging from hobbies, activities and games to the school yard, teddies, health and holidays. The third floor is especially impressive and plays host to hundreds of dolls, each with their own history and culture – many dating back to the early 19th century.

At the moment, some exhibitions in the Museum of Childhood are undergoing a refurbishment, leaving parts of the second floor in particular a little sparse, but despite this each section has the wonderful ability of appealing to visitors young and old through the classy displays, interesting arrangements and clever use of sound and picture. As expected, the museum is exceptionally child friendly, and offers old-fashioned games and toys such as snakes and ladders and rocking horses on every floor to combat boredom whilst educating and entertaining youngsters. One particular part of the museum which is especially thoughtful is situated on the fifth floor and gives children the opportunity to dress up in the fashions of the early 20th century with a few chosen garments symbolic to the period (adults too could indulge a little here if willing to leave their dignity at the door.)

One of the other lovely aspects of the Museum of Childhood is that visitors are so obviously enchanted by the items they see in the display cases. Whatever era you lived in, it is almost a guarantee that you recognise and identify with many artefacts on show – although the fact that your childhood toys are now behind glass in a museum is a harsh reality many adults can probably do without. Often the phrases ‘I had one of those’ or ‘Do you remember that?’ can be heard when passing a meccano set from the 1960s or a pedal car from the 1940s. Often much comfort can be found in the past when reminiscing over items which obviously brought much joy and happiness once upon a time.

Various displays

The Museum of Childhood is obviously popular with guests and has an informal air that many larger, less intimate museums lack. If you visit on a bank holiday, or at weekends the floors are usually busy – yet quiet reflection and pointed silences can be found when visiting on weekdays.  During the holidays family classes, events and workshops are introduced by staff, which help enhance visits and provide entertainment – usually free, for children and adults alike. The museum shop, selling replica toys and faux vintage items is also worth a wander around and one can almost guarantee that each group will leave with a few ‘Daddies Sauce’ or Reliant Robin postcards as a memento of a fabulous trip back in time.

Information:

The Museum of Childhood

42 High Street, Royal Mile, High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG
Tel: 0131 529 4142

Suitable for disabled?  Galleries One to Three are fully accessible. There are stairs to galleries Four and Five. Please ask the customer assistants for directions to the disabled toilet.

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