To mark Great Britain hosting the Olympics this year the V&A Museum of Childhood have curated an exhibition exploring the â€śtumultuous 64 years between the London Olympic Games of 1948 and 2012.â€ť Janine Rudkins visits this thought-provoking show.
The exhibition travels through the atmospheric and innocent (at least in some respects) childhood of the 1950s, through to the more technology-savvy and knowledgeable children of this generation.Â It is split into the distinct eras of the 64 year period: 1948-1969, 1970-1989 and 1990-2012. The exhibition is not set up as a simulation environment of each era, and the exhibits are, in true museum fashion, behind glass cases (slightly disappointing as there were some things you long to get your hands on to relive childhood experiences).
But, the thing that sets it apart is the music. There are a series of giant lampshades in each gallery which invite you to â€śplease stand beneath the music shadeâ€ť, once you step in the acoustics of the age are played as if you are wearing headphones and the placement of the shade is such that your view is of just of the relevant era. It is the music combined with the prose and poetry written by members of the local community which accompanies many of the objects that help to create a reality to the pieces which you may not grasp if it was not your own childhood.
The 1948-1959 section boasts classic vintage nostalgia with NHS prescription glasses, Famous Five books, Muffin the Mule and Sindy. Looking at the exhibits you are reminded that although the children grew up in a comparatively innocent lifestyle they were quite possibly less innocent than their modern counterparts having grown up in the post-war austerity era which singularly lacked the intense health and safety aspect to play that is apparent today â€“ playing in a desolate bomb-site was standard fare for many.
1970 to 1989 was the turning transitional point in the exhibition (and modern childhood in Britain) where childrenâ€™s rights really came to the forefront and technology was starting to become more prominent. Tuftyâ€™s road safety campaign, Star Wars and the Chopper bike all made their appearances in this section.
The final section was reflective of what is considered a more modern or current childhood upbringing. With exhibits spanning from the Teletubbies to Lily Allenâ€™s tween-age clothing range to the Teddyphone (a mobile phone for under fives). It really shows that this generation of children is less innocent with advanced technology and the more adult fashions being filtered down. In contrast they are more sheltered than in previous childhoods with greater introversion with the rise of the internet and the mobile phone.
And spanning the entire exhibition is a wall of the children of a local school, Rushmore Primary School, Hackney. The wall is the linking part of the whole exhibition; as it runs the length of the three separate galleries and eras, it shows how the real children of this period have developed alongside the toys, books and social and economic changes.
Modern British Childhood is curated by Rhian Harris is free for entry andÂ runs from 13 October â€“ 14 April 2013 at the V&A Museum of Childhood, London.
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