Hill Street Playground, Dublin 1970s.
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 (MOCI, https://museumofchildhood.ie), “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 We are in many important ways still coming to terms with the legacy of the outdated belief that “children should be seen and not heard.”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 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 a ‘Museum of Childhood’ actually is. 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. The MoCI incorporates elements of all of these by adopting 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, the museum presents an inclusive, holistic view of historical and contemporary childhood to inspire critical reflection and stimulate important and timely conversations on 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.
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 Eduaction Team organised a panel on “Writing Irish Institutions” with Jacinta Daly, Melatu Uche Okorie, and Emilie Pine. You can watch it here: https://museumofchildhood.ie/writing-irish-institutions-jacinta-daly-melatu-uche-okorie-and-emilie-pine/
The History Team’s Award Winning Heritage Week videos on Irish childhood from medieval times to the eighteenth century are available to watch here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx8bymLYkYRJ0tqCNxCx5cg
Here is a link to some of the great work going on at the Youth & Child Voices Team: https://museumofchildhood.ie/youth-voices/
For more on the Children’s Voices Project 2020 & 2021 Together, Le Chéile, see: https://museumofchildhood.ie/project2020/
Also Referenced in the Episode
On the death of Ann Lovett and her son in Longford (please be aware that this story may be distressing to some):
On the Hicks & Sons Dollhouse:
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 at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0332489320910013
You can find out more about Lorraine’s research at: https://museumofchildhood.ie/lorraine-mcevoy/ and https://www.tcd.ie/trinitylongroomhub/research/fellows/2020-21grad-fellows/Lorraine-McEvoy.php
There is no simple or singular version of childhood in Ireland or anywhere. Our aim is access for everyone to the stories and collections that represent the diverse experiences of childhood in Ireland across the centuries and up to the present day. Currently, a home for these experiences of childhood is missing in our national fabric.
All experiences of childhood are different. We see the MoCI as having a role in enabling the telling and sharing of this diversity. That’s why a project like the Museum of Childhood is important and needs a permanent home. By gathering stories, images and objects together in one place it offers insights into the diverse experiences of what it was and is to be a child in an ever-changing Ireland and world.
Within the MoCI, children themselves help drive that change. The museum’s permanent and temporary collections will help to tell those diverse stories.
The Museum’s principal objective is the collecting, curating and exhibiting of the tangible and intangible heritage of childhood. We aim to create meaningful and lasting experiences for children and adults. The museum will:
● Tell the historic and contemporary stories of the day-to-day lives of children growing up in Ireland through permanent and temporary exhibitions of collections of historic artefacts, handling collections, art, workshops, storytelling and interactive technology
● Research and disseminate the historical significance of childhood and children on the island of Ireland / amongst the diaspora
● Give voice to the children’s stories with empathy and sensitivity reflecting an often difficult past and present
● Stimulate and nourish the imagination of both children and adults by appealing to their sense of inquisitiveness
● Foster innovation and creativity
● Provide learning experiences through interactive and interdisciplinary engagement
● Offer research opportunities and extensive outreach programmes
● Contribute to the local, regional and national cultural landscape
● Contribute to the local, regional and national tourism economy in a significant and distinctive way
● Establish a home for the MoCI based on accessibility, and which will be playful and interesting, environmentally-focused, with crucial outdoor space and be linked physically to, and be an integral part of it’s home community. We favour a ‘play on the way approach ‘ to and from the museum,
And crucially, we will provide a platform for and promote the Voice of the Child from earliest times to now!
The MoCI is underpinned by the following values: Respect, Integrity, Equality, and Diversity
The aggregation of local knowledge around childhood and children, together with academically-researched history is core to our mission:
The Museum of Childhood Ireland aims to deliver a world-class facility exploring the history, culture and Rights of children and childhood on the island of Ireland. Its principal objective is the establishment of a Museum which will collect, curate and exhibit tangible and intangible heritage relating to children and childhood on the island of Ireland from the earliest times to the present day, and promote the voice of the child.
It is cultural institutions such as the MoCI, actively encouraging youth participation that will assist with fostering tolerance and acceptance of the diversity of society in modern Ireland.
We see the home for the museum as fitting comfortably within a city or busy town. A good public transport network, and an environmentally-forward attitude around cyclist / pedestrian friendly streets and urban streetscaping is essential.
“When considering the needs of children, the emphasis is on the destination. However, it is also important to consider the journey, providing safe and accessible routes. Incidental play and exploration can be incorporated in everyday journeys, through tactile surfaces.” ‘Play on the way’. RPTI.
Through sensitive restoration of an old building, coupled with complete accessibility in all aspects of and to all areas of the museum, the museum will play an important role for all citizens in sustainable community and town centre revitalisation. We see it’s possibilities as a local authority museum, or partnership.
Who we are
The Board of the MoCI comprises individuals with the professional skills and experience required to underwrite the development and delivery of the project, coupled with a dedication to, and passion for bringing the stories of childhood experiences in Ireland across the centuries, to a wide and diverse audience.
The MoCI voluntary Board is supported by a wider group of volunteers with specialist knowledge in History, Children’s Rights, Child and Youth Voices, Education, Children’s Literature, Marketing and Social Media, Graphic Design, Governance, Conservation, Strategy, IT and Fundraising
In May 2016, the MCI formally registered as a company and was granted charitable status. Our Registered Charity number is 20205452.
The board of the MCI has adopted the Corporate Governance Code and are aiming for placement in the Good Governance Awards for 2022.
What we do.
We work in collaboration with a range of stakeholders to create and present exhibitions and co-curated exhibitions, events and projects that serve our mission statement:
The MoCI has an extensive collection of artefacts related to the material culture of childhood.
● Books (including the Shirley Lewis Scrapbook (1917 ) and Enid Blyton collection, 1950s)
.The Izzy Jones – McAuley collection, 1920s
● Toys (Crolly Dolls 1930-1980, Dolls Houses, 1850-1970s, Meccano sets, 1920-80s)
. The Anne O’Leary Collection
● Board Games (inc Horse racing, Rocket Game, 1960 )
. The Charlotte Raftery Collection
● Clothing (Sailor suits, 1920, Edwardian Dresses and Irish Christening gowns)
.The Maya Sunario Collection
● Educational (School desk, books, copy books and a ‘leather’ circa, 1950)
● Baby equipment (Baby cradle, 1895, Reddin sunchair ,1910, Corduroy baby pram, 1970)
.The McAllister Collection
● Medical (Polio calipers, 1905, medicine bottles)
.The Dr Damien O,Muirí Collection
● A variety of sporting items
.The Ellen Worrell Collection
Progressing this unique project requires help with:
● Resourcing the work and team
● Supporting our outreach and engagement programmes
Status of the project and location
We are currently delivering our aims and objectives in the digital sphere, and via ‘pop-up’ and travelling exhibitions. Our activities are also available on-site in various partner museums, community hubs and via ‘pop-up’ visibility. We are actively seeking a permanent home for the MoCI, it’s historically important collection and frequent exhibitions/ workshops and programmes. Our collection is housed temporarily at the People’s Museum, Limerick, and in private secure storage.
The MoCI is a multi award-winning museum, having achieved International recognition. In 2020, the MoCI was shortlisted from over 400 museums worldwide to the finals for an International award for #Project2020Together, Le Chéile, alongside such phenomenal museums as The Glucksman, the Rijksmuseum, the Warhol Museum, the Glazer Museum and the National Gallery of Singapore, and in recognition of our services to children worldwide, the Citta di Angri award, INACS in 2021 and in 2022. We were honoured to be the recipients of winning awards in 2021 and 2022 from the Heritage Council of Ireland.
Our exhibitions have been curated and mounted in the following locations:
● Art Center, Illinois, USA (Sept-Dec 2020)
● Killarney House and Gardens, Killarney National Park, Ireland (out-of-doors, from December 2020)
● Udaaya Museum, Kathmandu, Nepal (from January 2021)
● The People’s Museum Limerick (out-of-doors, from February 2021)
● The Robert Emmet CDP, Dublin (from August 2021)
● City of Rubano, Veneto, Italy (from September 2021)
Town centres, Tralee, Tipperary, Drogheda…
Libraries and Museums across Ireland: Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Kerry, Athlone, Galway, Leitrim, Derry, Belfast, Warrenpoint, and Dundalk
● INACS, the Istituto Nazionale Arte Cultura Spettacolo, Italy, January 2020 and 2021
● Udaaya Museum, Kathmandu, Nepal from January 2021
● Vimuseo, Global museums platform June 2021
We have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Our online Facebook audience has grown to over 35,000 followers. https://www.facebook.com/MuseumOfChildhoodIreland
The board of the MoCI is currently working to identify a suitable permanent home for the museum. The building will be accessible to everybody and will tell the histories of children and childhood on the island of Ireland through artefacts, images and displays. The MoCI welcomes input from Government Departments, Local Government, Cultural Institutions, Organisations and private individuals who would like to work with us on this unique cultural initiative.
In an interview with Austin Comerton of Irish Radio Canada, Majella McAllister outlines the project: