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Durable Trifles

Catherine Howell

Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood

"Preserving and presenting childhood – some collections management issues at the V&A Museum of Childhood"

The V&A Museum of Childhood is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum and holds one of the largest collections of toys and childhood artefacts in the world. This paper aims to examine three distinct areas of the collection, all of which contain ephemeral material, highlighting issues of documentation, storage and accessibility. 

The Museum Collection:
The collection is divided up into subject areas, one of which is ephemera. In the main this covers greetings cards, documents, letters and diaries, and scraps and scrapbooks. Ephemeral material is also found in other areas of the collection and the Museum is in the process of acquiring a large collection of architectural paper models, some of a very transient nature.
The Archive:
The Museum is undertaking a three year project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund , which will document, conserve, re-house and make available the archive holdings of four major British toy makers – Lines Brothers, Mettoy, Palitoy, and Paul and Majorie Abbatt.  The material involved includes catalogues, business papers, photographs, letters and advertisements.
The Renier Collection (non book material):
Anne and Fernand Renier’s  collection of children’s books is held by the National Art Library of the V&A but they also collected associated objects and ephemera which is held by the Museum of Childhood. There are similar objects to those found in the Museum’s collection proper but prominent in the Renier collection is a quantity of packaging featuring characters from children’s literature.
These  three separate areas of the Museum of Childhood’s overall holdings provide different challenges of care and access and are currently being dealt with in different ways. An examination of these areas, both individually and collectively, shows that the factors of policy, finance, time, expectation and staff resource all impact on their care and access.

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