Childhood is common to all humans, but with all the individuality that this brings. The Childhood and Youth Collection contains objects made by children, which reflect their world views, and collections about children and childhood. It also encompasses photographs, documents and audiovisual material, as well as recording material culture and intangibles such as play lore, experiences and ideas.

The collection was begun in the 1980s, and in 2009 comprised around 2237 objects, including games, dolls, toys, school material, clothing and costumes, domestic items, and information on child-related organisations and issues.

A significant component of the collection is the Australian Children's Folklore Collection (ACFC), acquired in 1999. This comprises over 10,000 card files listing children's games, rhymes, riddles, jokes and superstitions, from the 1940s to the present.  The collection contains 500 photographs; extensive video and audio collection; over 300 play artefacts; research files and fieldwork files.

The ACFC was placed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register in 2004, which recognises collections of long-term and wide-ranging international significance.

Other significant items:

  • The Le Forgeron Marionette Theatre collection - a rare surviving example of the travelling marionette/puppet troupes that regularly toured throughout Australia until the 1960s.
  • Sterne Doll Company Collection, including Gerry Gee puppet and paraphernalia, and doll-making materials and equipment.
  • The Panaroos Playthings Doll and Toy Museum Collection, featuring items made by Australian companies during the 1930s-1950s.

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