Britain’s oldest toy museum may be forced to remove an ‘offensive’ display of golliwogs, which have been on display since the 1950s, after complaints from tourists.
The dolls, nowadays widely considered offensive and racist, were common in the UK in less politically correct times. The character was created by cartoonist Florence Kate Upton in the 19th century and has appeared in British children’s books such as Enid Blyton’s Noddy series and as well as featuring as a mascot for Robertson’s jam for nearly a century.
The display of the historic dolls has been on view at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh since it opened in 1955. However, visitors who are offended by the dolls have been invited to contact the museum’s management, and they may disappear following a refurbishment.
A notice posted by the museum, reported by The Times, reads: “We recognise that some visitors may feel the golliwogs on display in the museum represent negative racial stereotypes.
“We do not uphold such stereotypes and do not wish to cause any offence but believe that it is right to display these toys because they were such a significant part of British childhood from the 1890s to the 1950s.
“As soon as we have the opportunity to upgrade the museum’s displays we will consider alternative ways of interpreting these toys and reflecting the changes in attitudes towards them in more recent years.”
The museum, which attracts more than 250,000 people every year, is currently preparing to close for refurbishment. Edinburgh city council, which owns the exhibition, was unable to confirm if the exhibition will remain in place when it reopens next year.
A spokesman for the museum said: “The ground floor is due to be completely remodelled into what we hope will be a fun factory for children. The new gallery will feature new toys and technology alongside long-held artefacts from the collection.”
When asked what would become of the golliwogs, she said: “The details of which artefacts will go on display and which will go into storage once the refurbishment is complete is still under wraps.”
The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights said the exhibition is “offensive”, insisting fuller context is added and more information given on the history and perception of the toys is added if they are to remain.
“If displayed there needs to be a fuller exploration of how these toys came about, the racism behind them and how they allowed, and still allow, racism to flourish,” Jatin Haria, the charity’s executive director, told The Times.
“Otherwise we, and many others, will find the Museum of Childhood offensive.”