Robert Opie’s decision not to throw away a Munchie’s chocolate sweet wrapper in 1963 was the start of a collection which has now evolved into the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. Containing over 12,000 exhibits, the collection offers a heart-warming nostalgic trip through everything from household products, games, toys, biscuits, soft and hard drinks – indeed, the consumer background which has surrounded most of us growing up in the British Isles.
The museum moved last year to new and larger premises in Lancaster Road in London’s Notting Hill area. I was very keen to visit it during my stay in London at the end of last month on my return from India. Like faded photographs and Proustian madeleine tastes of bygone days, old package wrappings and advertisements have a magic power to evoke seemingly lost memories. Wandering through the museum’s cleverly designed ‘time tunnel’, jam-packed full of items dating back to the beginnings of product advertising in the nineteenth century, stimulated us to reminisce about many things we’d grown up with: game boxes, such as’ Take-your-pick’ based on an old TV quiz show (remember Michael Miles?), to those fabulous Huntley and Palmer breakfast biscuits to Jubbly fruit drinks to LP covers and so much more.
The tunnel is cleverly designed to cover various eras from early Victorian through wars up to the last decades of the previous century with panels describing the main events of each period. Packages and advertising are, indeed, a direct reflection of social changes such as increased spending power, women’s emancipation, wartime austerity and package holidays.
Some products have disappeared for ever (although there may be a return of those HP biscuits!) Others have continued through the decades and even retain something of their original ‘look’. There’s a fascinating part of the collection which shows how particular products have evolved their presentation through the ages: items such as Marmite, Bird’s custard or Kit-Kat, for example.
A great point about the museum is that it’s possible to meet its brain-child Robert Opie who, through his fifty year old collecting passion, has become the world’s leading consumer historian with twenty books on the subject to his credit and so much valuable material to contribute to social historians in general. Robert is always willing to answer questions and talk to those visiting his fascinating museum.
There’s also a café and shop where one can buy reproductions of items on display.
There’s no need to have loads of money to start one’s own museum: old masters aren’t necessary for constituting a fascinating gallery. Rather, think twice about throwing away that washing powder carton…Not only will you stop littering this precious planet but you may even start your own collection!
More information including opening times is available at the museum’s official web site at http://www.museumofbrands.com/visitus/