According to a report published by UK masthead, The Times, a collection of golliwog dolls could be removed from the oldest children’s museum in Britain after complaints from visiting tourists.
Golliwog dolls were common in shops and nurseries from the 1890s to the 1950s, however changes in community attitudes reflected by visitor complaints to the curators of the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh, could force a removal of the 'offensive’ toys.
The black-skinned dolls have been on display at since it opened in 1955, and are exhibited as a nostalgic reminder of childhoods of decades past.
Golliwogs are now seen as an embodiment of racist stereotyping, and as such the museum, which attracts more than 250,000 people every year, has now posted a disclaimer next to the dolls acknowledging that many visitors will find their presence offensive.
The notice posted by the museum 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 will soon close its doors ahead of the biggest programme of refurbishment in its 60-year history. Edinburgh city council, which owns the exhibition, is unable to say if the golliwogs will remain in place when it reopens next year.
According to a museum spokesperson, the ground floor will be completely remodelled, with a new new gallery coming soon that will feature new toys and technology alongside long-held artefacts in the Museum's collection.
“The details of which artefacts will go on display and which will go into storage once the refurbishment is complete is still under wraps.”
Nicola Hay, the Scottish campaign manager for Show Racism the Red Card, believes that the dolls could be used to teach a valuable history lesson.
“Golly dolls perpetuate racism as they hark back to a time when the mockery and stereotyping of black people was considered a social norm,” Hay said.
“However, we would support the display of golly dolls within the museum if they were accompanied with an education segment, or an interaction educational journey, so that young people could understand the history of racism in Scotland. Simply placing a sign that says that some people may find the display offensive is not enough.”
The original golliwog doll, based on a character created in 1894, remains on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood in London.