Why a Museum of Childhood?

In an interview with Austin Comerton of Irish Radio Canada, Majella McAllister outlines the project:

Have a listen below 👇

Martin Swords and Teresa O’Donovan, Booterstown, Co Dublin, 1956.
We Must Make the Museum of Childhood Ireland a Reality Now

“I remember, I remember
The house where I was born
The little house where the sun
Came peeping in at morn.”

”I remember, as perhaps, you do, learning that Thomas Hood poem in school– a paean to childhood. In any group of people introduce the theme of childhood into the conversation and words and memories come tumbling out, jostling each other for space, for recognition.

Childhood is at once universal and deeply personal.  In the Constitution the State pledges to ‘cherish all of the children equally,’ This is a pledge that, sadly has been broken over and over again as through the years many Irish children have suffered and some have died through neglect.  We cannot right that wrong, we cannot raise the dead.  However, we can honour those children and bear testament to their lives and the lives of countless Irish children who have lived normal, loving, happy childhoods.

It seems remarkable that there is no one institution dedicated to preserving the memory and records of this important cohort of society.  This is a lacuna that the Museum of Irish Childhood will fill through collecting the fragments of the missing jigsaw of the past and through the active involvement of today’s Irish children, together creating a glorious record of Irish childhood. The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened for all of us the fragility of life and the brevity of childhood.  Let us remember our children and their childhoods as a beacon of hope for the future. Let us do this in a creative and lasting way by making the Museum of Childhood Ireland a reality.”

Dr Pat Donlon



Rights March. Senator Alice-Mary Higgins as a young child, with her mother Sabina.
Why is the project for a permanently-homed Museum of Childhood Ireland so important?

“There is no simple or singular version of childhood in Ireland or anywhere.  One of the reasons myself, Colette Kelleher and others in my Seanad Civil Engagement Group proposed a Bill to promote Traveller History and Culture in Education is because we wanted all children to have an understanding of the diversity that makes up our national fabric. Children’s experiences are different, their circumstances and perspectives are different and what makes a community is when we can share and learn from each others stories. That’s why a project like the Museum of Childhood is so important  and needs a permanent home. By gathering stories and images together in one place it offers insights into the diverse experiences of what it was and is to be a child alive in an ever-changing Ireland and world. It is important to remember also that children may themselves help make that change! I am including below a picture of myself on a march at a very young age and some of the most thoughtful and strong activists I work with as a Senator are the young people demanding climate action. Listening to childhood experience and children’s voices can deepen understanding and I hope, solidarity. As a legislator, I draw on such solidarity when pressing for better social policies, including ones to respect and protect the rights of the child – a key priority for the Museum and its wonderful volunteers. As many children across Ireland navigate new challenges in these strange times, we must remember that their stories matter.”

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins

Have you heard ‘TLRH | The Hublic Sphere | Past, Present and Potential at the Museum of Childhood Ireland’ by TLRHub on SoundCloud?

Have a listen above 👆

Past, Present and Potential at the Museum of Childhood Ireland / Músaem Óige na hÉireann 

Hello. My name is Lorraine McEvoy and In this episode, I speak to Majella McAllister (founder, head of Youth Voices Team) and Professor Mary O’Dowd (head of History Team) about the Museum of Childhood Ireland, “Ireland’s first Island-wide / diaspora / global, social history Museum of Childhood.” The ultimate aim of the voluntary group behind the Museum is to establish a physical, interactive and community driven museum, which seeks to be research based, critically engaged and more than simply a repository of nostalgia. They aim to provide both a museum and a platform; connecting the history of childhood with the experiences of children today. As they pursue the establishment of a physical museum, the team have worked on numerous traveling exhibits, community initiatives and projects such as the “Children’s Voices Project 2020/21: Together, Le Chéile” which sought to provide an outlet for children, in addition to creating an archive of children’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, we talk about topics ranging from the origins of the Museum, to the range of its voluntary teams and initiatives,  definitions of Irish childhood and how we can respectfully include the full range of childhood experiences. The Museum has a very active social media presence and you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter (@museumofci). 

About the Museum: In their Own Words 

“Over the last three decades, the varied history of children and childhood in Ireland has come to the fore of our collective cultural consciousness in ways that are too frequently dark and deeply disturbing. We are in many important ways still coming to terms with the legacy of the outdated belief that “children should be seen and not heard.” At the Museum of Childhood Ireland, we believe that all children should be seen and heard. Our primary objective in establishing the MOCI is so that the museum can take the lead in creating a new vision for the way in which children are cherished and respected in Irish society. Within the museum, children themselves are central to driving change. 

MOCI is breaking new ground by reimagining what it means to be a “Museum of Childhood.” At present, there are museums of childhood which tend to focus on toys and nostalgia; there are also children’s museums that offer various activities based on educational and scientific principles, and there are social history museums that address some aspects of childhood from a historical perspective. However, the MOCI adopts a wide-angle approach to childhood that is both islandwide and international in scope. Because there is no singular narrative that captures childhood experiences in Ireland, we want to present an inclusive and holistic view of historical and contemporary childhood that will inspire critical reflection and stimulate important and timely conversations about childhood in all its complex forms.”

The Museum Teams and their Recent Projects

To find out more about the Museum of Childhood Ireland, their project teams and all of the work they do, you can visit their website and very active social media pages. 

Website: https://museumofchildhood.ie 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumOfChildhoodIreland/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/museumofchildhoodireland/ 

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/museumofci 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/museum-of-childhood-ireland/ 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx8bymLYkYRJ0tqCNxCx5cg 

Recent Work at the Museum of Childhood Ireland

The team at the Museum of Childhood Ireland are always busy putting together new exhibitions and initiatives, here a just a few that may be of interest to listeners of this podcast: 

Dr Matthew Fogarty of the Education Team organised a panel on “Writing Irish Institutions” with Jacinta Daly, Melatu Uche Okorie, and Emilie Pine. You can watch it here

The History Team’s Award Winning Heritage Week videos on Irish childhood from medieval times to the eighteenth century is available to watch it here

Here is a link to some of the great work going on at the Youth & Child Voices Team

For more on the Children’s Voices Project 2020 & 2021 Together, Le Chéile, see here

RTE’s report on the death of Ann Lovett and her son in Longford is here (please be aware that this story may be distressing to some): 

More on the Hicks and Sons’ Dollshouse

You can read James Kelly’s article, “Chimney Sweeps, Climbing Boys and Child Employment in Ireland, 1775–1875” Irish Economic and Social History (2020), which is available in open access here

You can find out more about Lorraine’s research here and here