The V&A yesterday announced a multi- million-pound refurbishment of the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, to make a “world-leading” centre for children here in east London.
The Wednesday morning breakfast was brilliantly framed by two local schoolchildren, who invited V & A director Tristram Hunt to speak of the project’s capacity to ‘spark ingenuity’, plus MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali to speak passionately about how she had visited the museum, east London’s first, when she was a child, and remains committed to heightening access to the museum for those who need it most.
With Tower Hamlets having the highest rate of child poverty in the whole of the UK, and an ever-diminishing arts provision in the classroom, the role of institutions like the V&A in east London have never been more sharply in focus.
The plan to create “the world’s most joyful museum” in Bethnal Green has been drawn up with the help of local schoolchildren and the framework for the designs are pretty progressive, with a focus on the following approaches looking to really maximise the impact the museum has on its young visitors and the wider community;
‘In and Out’ – looks to reconnect the museum with the street and making access easier.
‘Up & Down’ – via a dramatic new installation called Kaleidoscope, invites visitors to explore the full extent of the museum as the installation connects the lower and upper levels.
‘Around & About’ – reconnects all aspects of the museum, learning spaces and displays, outdoor space and studios. There will be a lot more ‘dialogue’ between the different elements of the museum.
This messaging is drawn from the literature that was shared on the day by the lead architecture practice responsible for the plans, De Matos Ryan.
Beyond the conceptual ideas that were shared, came the practicalities that this is going to cost £13.5m, and that the museum will be at least part closed whilst the work is carried out.
This means that there will be great opportunity for local organisations and institutions in the Bethnal Green area to pick up the work that would otherwise have been delivered at the Museum of Childhood. Now is perhaps the time, therefore, to push forward with conversations around how to partner up and ensure that a broad range of benefits are shaped up for both young people, schools and local organisations alike.
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