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Launch of the Centre for the Study of Childhood Culture

From design and fashion to health and technology, Childhood culture is increasingly receiving serious scholarly attention within a range of disciplines. A new research centre, jointly run by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the V&A Museum of Childhood, aims to create an internationally recognised hub of research, knowledge and public engagement on childhood culture.

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(c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum
(c) Donne Buck/V&A Museum

The formation of the Centre for the Study of Childhood Culture is the latest development in an ongoing partnership between QMUL and its East End neighbour, the Museum of Childhood. The Centre will be jointly led by Dr Kiera Vaclavik, Senior Lecturer at QMUL, and Rhian Harris, Director of the Museum of Childhood.

The Centre will bring together more than 25 academic staff and doctoral students working on childhood culture at QMUL with the curatorial and education teams at the Museum of Childhood. Areas of focus are expected to include art and design with children; child produced art; fashion and architecture; children and digital technology; and child health.

Dr Vaclavik said: “Our two institutions are less than a mile from each other and we’ve already worked together on a number of important projects over the past few years. This is the next phase and the beginning of a very exciting formal partnership. Our values overlap in a number of areas and most importantly we share a commitment to developing world-leading, collaborative research in this rapidly evolving and fascinating field.”

The Centre will benefit members of both institutions including students, academics, museum staff and visitors. There will also be opportunities for collaboration with other QMUL research centres, including The City Centre, Centre for the History of the Emotions and Centre for Studies of Home.

Rhian Harris, Director, V&A Museum of Childhood said “This collaboration supports both an aim of the V&A’s strategic plan to develop a V&A Research Institute and also an objective of the Museum of Childhood to increase research capacity; by enabling the sharing of knowledge and expertise between QMUL and the Museum we aim to deliver research of international significance, which will have an impact on the understanding of Childhood Culture for a wide range of audiences.”

One of the Centre’s first major projects will begin in October 2016. Adventures in the City: The Politics and Practice of Children’s Adventure Play in Urban Britain will draw upon the Museum of Childhood’s recently acquired Donne Buck Archive - an internationally important collection of materials documenting the people, practices and politics of the adventure playground movement since the 1950s.

This Economic and Social Research Council funded collaborative PhD project will explore debates about the importance of playgrounds in post-war urban regeneration; examine changing perspectives on the role of play in child development; consider the experiences of children and parents in these new playgrounds; and investigate the role of the playground movement in campaigning for children’s rights, welfare and citizenship. Adventures in the City will be led by Professor Alastair Owens, from the School of Geography at QMUL, Dr Kiera Vaclavik and Ms Rhian Harris.

The Centre will serve as an umbrella to current and incoming postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers as well as existing initiatives and projects including The Child in the World project and the Children’s Literature, Children’s Lives research cluster based in the School of Language, Linguistics and Film.

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