Golliwog exhibition could be removed from museum following outrage from visitors

May Bulman
Golliwog dolls, based on a black fictional character that appeared in children’s books in the late 19th century, are widely seen as an embodiment of racist stereotyping: Joe Miranda/Flickr

A collection of golliwog dolls could be removed from the UK’s oldest children’s museum after complaints from tourists.

The dolls, which are based on a black fictional character that appeared in children’s books in the late 19th century, have been on display at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh since it opened in 1955.

A disclaimer notice has been put up next to the dolls acknowledging that many visitors will find their presence offensive, according to The Times.

“We recognise that some visitors may feel the golliwogs on display in the museum represent negative racial stereotypes,” the sign states.

“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 said to be preparing to close for refurbishment. Edinburgh city council, which owns the exhibition, was unable to confirm whether or not the exhibition of golliwogs – widely seen as an embodiment of racist stereotyping – will remain in place when it reopens next year.

The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights said the exhibition as it stands is “offensive”, and that if it remains there must be fuller context and information as to how the toys came about and the historically racist connotations they have.

“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.”

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