Six carved wooden figures with large eyes and black geometric decoration on pale unvarnished wood.

Empire and Education in Edward Lovett’s Display of Dolls

By Catriona Ellis

The Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh claims to be the first in the world to focus on the history of childhood, but the museum is not the only place in which some of these toys have been displayed.  Many of the dolls were the result of enthusiasm for collecting of one man – Mr Edward Lovett (1852-1933).  But collections are not only for the joy of collecting, but also the joy of sharing with a wider audience. 

View of the Exhibition 'It's Alive' at the Museum of Childhood Edinburgh, June 2017

It’s Alive! tour for visually impaired visitors


This summer the museum plays host to a cast of curious clockwork characters from the House of Automata, alongside a new series of etchings by Robert Powell.

We invite you to join us for a descriptive tour of the exhibition and a hands-on automata performance, tailored to visually impaired visitors.

Come along to experience the magic of mechanical life. In Robert Powell’s prints we will explore the uncanny overlaps between nature and technology, and the role of automata in legend and literature. Then, the automata will come to life in the expert hands of Michael and Maria Start, including a tiny feathered bird who sings 170-year-old songs.

11.00am – 12.30pm

Friday 28th July 2017

Places are limited. Book by email

Museum of Childhood, 42 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TG

Directions to Museum

A 'Strawberry Girl' automata, resembling a ceramic doll holding a basket of strawberries, in front of a patterned wallpaper and Victorian diorama.

Background information

Michael and Maria Start are collectors, restorers and promoters of mechanical life. The intriguing automata in the exhibition have been brought to Edinburgh from their secret workshop in the Highlands.

Robert Powell is an Edinburgh artist who creates hand-painted prints, filled with black humour and glorious detail. This new series, ‘Pneuma: The Mechanical Egg’, has been created especially for the exhibition.

Accessibility information

A lift provides step-free access to the exhibition, and there are accessible toilets in Gallery 3. Unfortunately we do not have parking on site.