The Museum of Childhood is a collection of children's toys and playthings, situated on the Royal Mile, in Edinburgh. It was the first museum in the world to specialise in the history of childhood. The Museum of Childhood’s large collection is full of colour and variety. Visitors to the Museum can see optical and construction toys, cars from Dinky miniatures to child-size pedal cars, toy soldiers, puppets and dolls’ houses. The Museum explores all aspects of growing up, so toys and games sit alongside items such as books, medicines and clothing. The Museum of Childhood collection was founded by Patrick Murray, a passionate collector of toys and childhood objects who was also an Edinburgh Town Councillor. Objects in the collection span the 18th to 21st centuries.
Visitors to the Museum of Childhood can re-live their school days in two of the galleries. Gallery One introduces school and its importance to young lives, while in Gallery Five, which is full of wonderful costume, there is a small classroom set showing a 1930s schoolboy in his smart George Watson’s uniform. The collection of material relating to school days covers the late 19th century to the 1960s, and ranges from nursery to secondary education. Most of the objects are from Scottish schools, and lots of them are from Edinburgh. From text books and maps to sports equipment and needlework, they collect and display objects from all aspects of school life. They even have a cane and some leather tawses (straps), which may bring back memories of bad behaviour at school.
Games have been a part of childhood for centuries. From simple games like tig or hide and seek, to the latest computer consoles, games teach us to explore our world. The Museum of Childhood displays lots of games from its huge collection, which covers outdoor games, board games, card games, party games and computer games. Outdoor Games: Colourful marbles and spinning tops, skipping ropes and yoyos all feature in this collection of games traditionally played outdoors. Board and Table Games: Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Tiddly Winks and Monopoly are still family favourites today, while others, like World War Two strategy games or the Jason Donovan board game relate to a particular time in history. Card Games: Most of us know Happy Families and Snap, but they also have a range of little-known card games for almost every subject you can think of – from history, geography, nature and art to fairy tales and Walt Disney characters. Party Games: Some of the traditional party games include Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Beetle and Forfeits, as well as quiz games like Impertinent Questions. Computer and Electronic Games: These games have changed the way that many older children play, making them important to the collection.
The home life collection is very varied, covering everything from breakfast time and getting dressed to dinner, bath and bed-time. They have food specially packaged for children, including the ever-popular sweets, as well as crockery, high chairs and feeding bottles. Ornaments and pictures used to decorate children’s bedrooms are collected alongside holiday souvenirs. The costume collection covers baby clothes, boys’ and girls’ ‘best’ clothes, school uniforms, society uniforms and all sorts of other clothes and accessories. Visitors to the Museum can see ‘children’ dressed in their party clothes, school uniform and fancy dress. They have lots of baby clothes from the period 1880 to 1930, including beautifully-made christening robes. Baby clothes were often kept for sentimental reasons, and many of the christening robes have been passed down through families for generations. Amongst clothes for older children, they have lots of party or ‘best’ dresses for girls and Highland outfits or sailor suits for boys. In 1997, the Museum acquired a wonderful collection from a former television costume designer. It is made up of chidlren’s everyday clothes and shoes from the early to mid-20th century – the sorts of things that weren’t kept, and so have become rare.
The Museum holds a uniform collection including lots of Scottish school uniforms and those of well-known organisations like the Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades, Guides and Scouts. The accessories collection includes fans, bags, purses, jewellery, muffs, parasols and hair ornaments, many of which reflect adult fashions. Galleries One to Three are fully wheelchair accessible. There are stairs to galleries Four and Five. Please ask the visitor assistants for directions to the disabled toilet. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Museum of Childhood, 42 High Street, Royal Mile, High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG
Transport: Waverley (National Rail) 10 minutes. Bus Routes : 6 and 35 stop close by
Opening Times : Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00; Sunday 12:00 to 17:00
Tickets : Free; Donations Welcome.
Tel: 0131 529 4142