Victorian games and 19th century school life showcased at new exhibition

A new exhibition exploring the lives of Victorian schoolchildren – including the games that they played and their classroom experiences – is on display at our University in the Library's Special Collections until 7 July.

The exhibition, ‘Victorian Schooldays’, is organised by the University’s Special Collections and explores the lives of school pupils in the long 19th century and the changing face of education.

Interviews from the East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA) have been used throughout the exhibition to add a personal account of life during the 19th century.

Among the material on display is information pertaining to a large collection of games played by Victorian schoolchildren, including toys such as ‘whip top’ – a predecessor to the spinning top – sports such as shuttlecock, as well as contemporary playground games such as ‘Fox’ and ‘Baste the bear’.

Dr Simon Dixon from the Special Collections said: “The 19th century saw a re-evaluation of school management and pedagogy. Constructs such as the Monitorial System and the adoption of pupil teachers highlight their determination to reassess and improve teaching styles. The effect of such changes had a measurable impact upon pupil experience, resulting in changes to the pupil’s learning, and their relationships with teachers.

“School life was not all hard work and no play, with the rise in childhood toys and games throughout the century providing light relief for the young. However many of these games still retained elements of education and moral instruction.”