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Inside the V&A Museum of Childhood

Here’s a small peek into where I’ve been the past week:

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The wrought-iron framework of this building (the V&A Museum of Childhood located in Bethnal Green, London) is stunning––one has the feeling that she is standing inside the rib cage of a giant, mechanized whale. And yet, according to the museum program (on sale for 5 pounds in the gift shop), this structure was initially unpopular when it served as a temporary building for the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). Critics called the building the “Brompton Boilers” in reference to the factory-like (and perhaps transitory) appearance of the iron supports. It was not until 1868 that the iron structure of the building came to Bethnal Green and work began on transforming the temporary structure into what is now the permanent Museum of Childhood.

That this iron framework was ever unpopular is difficult to believe now, and the Museum of Childhood is worth a visit just for its singular architecture. In fact, the structure seems particularly apt for its new purpose. The iron structure, which was once intended to be temporary and moveable, seems appropriate for a museum which houses many items originally found in traveling carnivals and fairs. Not to mention that it seems only right that the building should have a history as interesting as those possessed by the objects within it.

Overall, a lovely space to spend a week reading, researching, and thinking.

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A summer research grant from the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate program at USC partly funded this research trip to the V&A Museum of Childhood.

All photographs taken by the author.

References and Further Reading:

Wood, Sarah. Museum of Childhood: A Book of Childhood Things. London: V&A Publishing, 2012. Print.

I am an English PhD Student and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Southern California. My research interests include doll studies, nineteenth-century literature, and narrative theory.

bbeehler

I am an English PhD Student and Assistant Lecturer at the University of Southern California. My research interests include doll studies, nineteenth-century literature, and narrative theory.

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