‘Racist’ Golliwogs to stay in new look museum

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The revamped Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh will be keeping its controversial collection of Golliwogs when it reopens on Saturday - despite complaints they are “racist”.

The toys have been part of the permanent exhibition at the Royal Mile museum since 1955, but have fallen out of favour because of their racial connotations.

After complaints the museum put up a disclaimer sign insisting they were not on display to “uphold racist stereotypes”.

Two will remain on show when the museum reopens on Saturday.

Lyn Stevens, its curator, said that while the word had been used in “a negative and racist” way, the dolls would stay on display as a significant part of British childhood from the 1890s to the 1950s.

The display has been remodelled in consultation with Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) in Glasgow and experts at Edinburgh university.

Lynn Stevens said: “We could choose not to display them but then we would be deliberately missing out on childhood experience.

“We are making sure they are in one area with interpretation that talks about how it is recognised that the character portrayed in a golliwog is racist.

“Obviously the word golliwog has been used in a negative and racist way and people sometimes use them to project a certain message. We face that discussion and include it in our interpretation.”

The original golliwog doll, based on a character created by US cartoonist Florence Kate Upton in 1894, is at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London.

The Edinburgh museum will also feature its first Barbie and Xbox, after a £200,000 revamp of its ground-floor galleries in what is expected to be a rolling overhaul of the five-storey museum, which attracts 250,000 visitors a year.

It will also show an icon of Scottish childhood - the tawse, used in Scottish schools as recently as the 1970’s. Made of leather, with a split for exacting extra pain, it has a stand of its own.