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'The world's most joyful museum": London's Young V&A wins Museum of the Year award

The Young V&A has won the Museum of the Year award
The Young V&A has won the Museum of the Year award Copyright Credit: Young V&A Museum
Copyright Credit: Young V&A Museum
By Theo Farrant
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Judges praised the museum as a “truly inspirational” institution that engaged with the Bethnal Green community and reimagined the museum experience for young people.

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The Young V&A, located in Bethnal Green, East London, has won the prestigious Museum of the Year award, securing the £120,000 (€142,000) prize.

Formerly known as the Museum of Childhood, the museum reopened in July last year after a three year renovation at a cost of £13 million (€15 million).

“The Young V&A has done something completely rare, it’s completely reimagined the museum. It started with its target audience and then it fit all the pieces of the museum – the building, the collection, display, interpretation, exhibitions, learning – around that central focus of young people," says Jenny Waldman, the director of Art Fund, the UK's national charity for art.

She adds: "It’s the world’s most joyful museum."

A young girl looks at a installation from Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&A
A young girl looks at a installation from Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&ACredit: David Parry/Young V&A
A young girl looks at an interactive display, from Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&A.
A young girl looks at an interactive display, from Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&A. Credit: David Parry, courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum

The museum, tailored to children from 0 to 14, showcases over 2,000 objects spanning from 2300 BC to the present day, displayed across three galleries: Play, Imagine, and Design. These zones include an open design studio, a game design space for teenagers, and an interactive Minecraft installation.

As opposed to traditional museums, the Young V&A invites visitors to touch the items on display, and being loud is part of the experience.

Since October 2023, the museum has hosted "Japan: Myths to Manga", a temporary exhibition taking visitors on a journey through Japanese history, culture and folklore.

The exhibit recently attracted Naruhito, the Emperor of Japan, and his wife, Empress Masako, who visited the museum last month.

The Young V&A was among a shortlist of other institutions that had undergone significant renovations in recent years, including The National Portrait Gallery, and the Manchester Museum, which reopened in 2022.

Other nominees included Dundee Contemporary Arts, celebrating its 25th year, and the Craven Museum in Skipton. £15,000 will be given to each of the other four finalists.

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