Literary museums

A new way to discover children’s books

Stepping into literature

If you’ve ever wished to step into the fascinating world of your most beloved books, we have good news for you. A revolutionary wave in museum design is now transforming this dream into a reality so you can become a character in your favourite fictional worlds. In this article, we delve into what sets these museums apart and provide you with a curated list of must- visit literary museums.

I look at international children’s literary museums to discover how children’s books are celebrated worldwide. Different approaches are taken to preserving and communicating these pieces of culture, from displaying them in cabinets to creating art installations that bring their imaginary worlds to life. As part of the children’s literature team at the Museum of Childhood Ireland, I aim to share some of my favourite ideas and imagine the future appearance of our museum’s exhibits.

The International Committee for Literary and Composers’ Museums (ICLCM, 2019) defines the literary museum as “an institution focusing on preserving literature as cultural heritage”. Literary museums acquire, preserve and communicate this heritage in order to promote “knowledge about literature and its role in society”. As a result, visitors can have first-hand experiences of the exhibition’s contents. Interaction is especially emphasised in children’s museums, whose
main audiences are children and young people, and in our museum where everyone from child to adult is welcomed.

Three types of literary museums

The ICLCM classifies literary museums into three types: writers’, landscapes’, and general literary museums. Among the general literary museums, we could include all the centres that spotlight children’s literature, even though there are also specific examples of children’s author museums and another subtype, the character-centred museums. In brief, children’s literary museums are thus spaces for the acquisition, preservation, and promotion of children’s books.

General literary museums

General literary museums are devoted to a specific kind of literature. These museums take different forms, such as displaying a particular national literature, historical period, or genre (e.g., comic books, fantasy novels, children’s picture books, etc.) to showcase their identity.

Children’s literary museums celebrate books for children in a myriad of ways. Some focus on preserving the history of children’s books and displaying large collections, while others promote the love for reading among young people. Nonetheless, most institutions combine both missions and become centres for the promotion of new children’s literature as well as historical archives.

Literature Museums: Villa Verbeelding, Junibacken, and Seven Stories

There are many interesting examples of this particular kind of museum, such as Seven Stories, England’s National Centre for Children’s Books; Villa Verbeelding in Belgium; and Junibacken in Sweden. For this piece, we have decided to take you with us to Moat Brae, home to Scotland’s National Storytelling Centre.

The museum is located in Dumfries, in a house that the author J. M. Barrie used to frequent during his childhood, which is said to have inspired his children’s classic, Peter Pan. The centre includes memorabilia for the author, such as his chair, and many references to his beloved characters, including an outside garden and park inspired by the pirate boats and the Lost Children cottages. You can see them in the pictures below.

However, Moat Brae is much more than that. It celebrates the tradition of oral narration and storytelling for children. The museum’s website states its mission is “to create a world where reading and storytelling are an integral part of growing up.” As a result, it hosts many great literary events throughout the year.

Author museums

Author museums honour the heritage of a particular writer or illustrator. These museums often display the original works of said author and celebrate their life accomplishments. Some are even located in their birthplace and use their surroundings to educate visitors on how people lived during a specific historical period.

For instance, the H. C. Andersen Museum started as a house museum. Visitors could see Andersen’s birthplace and join a guided walk around the city to follow his footsteps. In 2021, the museum expanded its installations to include modern, interactive spaces. Now, you can walk through the Fairy Tale Land, an exhibition where the most well-known tales written by Andersen come to life. The pictures illustrate two of our favourite exhibits: The Little Mermaid, which recreates the sea bottom so you feel like Ariel, and the bed from The Princess and the Pea.

And, of course, you can always stop and marvel at the author’s work. The room My Children displays Hans Christian Andersen’s original diaries, notebooks, letters, and paperwork. He was a prolific author, so you will find plenty of treasures. 

For more children’s literature authors’ museums, check the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in England, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in the United States, and the Anno Mitsumasa Art Museum in Japan.

Character museums

Character museums bring to life a book’s fictional universe to immerse visitors in the story and live the experience of the protagonist by themselves. These museums often expand the information contained in the original books, creating new scenarios or even characters to enrich the world.

An excellent example is the Miffy Museum (Nijntje Museum in Dutch). The museum focuses on the beloved bunny created by Dick Bruna. The design is inspired by the author’s art, using the same bright colour palette and rounded forms. Moreover, some of the original pieces of art and first editions of the books are displayed in glass cabinets around the playgrounds, as can be seen in the pictures.

There are plenty of children’s literary museums flourishing around the world. We have chosen some examples of children’s literary museums for each category to give you a hint of the options out there. Which one would you like to visit first?

Gabriela Portillo

Literature & Media Team at the Museum of Childhood Ireland



  • Seven Stories: England’s National Centre for Children’s Books
  • Villa Verbeelding in Belgium
  • Junibacken in Sweden
  • Moat Brae: Scotland’s National Storytelling Centre
  • H. C. Andersen Museum in Denmark
  • Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in England
  • The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in the United States
  • Anno Mitsumasa Art Museum in Japan
  • Miffy Museum in the Netherlands


International Committee for Literary and Composers’s Museums (ICLCM) (2019). Welcome to the International Committee for Literary and Composers’s Museums website. and-composers-museums-website/