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Exhibition space: Come on feel the toys

Full of light and space and hands-on zones, the refurbished Museum of Childhood opens its doors tomorrow, reportsVictoria Neumark

"I hate 'DO NOT' on exhibits," says Diane Lees, director of the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green in east London. "If it works and our visitors like it, they should have it. Anything that's out, you can play with. Anything in a case, you can't."

She looks around the beautifully refurbished main hall glistening with light pouring in through windows that had been blacked out, shimmering with earthy pink paint to replace the institutional cream and grey.

The national collection relating to children's lives is letting the light in from tomorrow. From the cleaned-up black-and-white mosaic floor downstairs to the shiny display cases upstairs, from new carpets to plentiful handling collections, the museum has been rejuvenated to offer more to its hordes of visitors.

Last year, 60,000 children came with school parties: around 30 per cent of the museum's 190,000 visitors, of which 60 per cent are aged under 16. Few have failed to be enthralled by the trains or the dolls' houses or the babies' rattles; few accompanying adults have not started shaking their heads with cries of, "I had one of those!". Whether it's a jukebox or a Tudor poppet (doll), you can find it here. As Ms Lees says, the collections are so versatile that they can be used to explain various methods of child-rearing, how toys move, or cultures in the East End.

Read this article in full in this week's TES Friday magazine

Teddy Bear Story: 100 years of the teddy bear opens at 1pmnbsp;on Saturday March 29, nbsp;until December 31 at the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2. Tel: 020 8983 5200 email: bgmc@vam.ac.uk www.museumofchildhood.org.uk

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