Smells can instantly transport you back to a long-forgotten time. For me, it’s coal. As a boy, I would stand by the delivery lorries that would arrive weekly in my street and inhale that special natural coal smell. I loved it, but you rarely smell it today.
The other thing was ‘Evening in Paris’, a perfume that my grandmother wore. That takes me right back to her in the 1950s.
The other memory-tugging area is graphics via packaging, comics, magazines and TV commercials.
Stepping inside the Museum of Brands is like taking a trip in the TARDIS – your life is rolled back to a seven-year-old as you walk through a labyrinthine series of shop-like windows filled with wonders organised in chronological order. As you stroll through the curving passageways, you are suddenly pulled up in an instant moment of childhood nostalgia.
This was the first piece that founder Robert Opie brought back in 1963 from a vending machine in Inverness. How he didn’t eat them I don’t know, but it was to be the start of a passion that has driven him ever since. Over 50 years, he has amassed an astonishing and important collection of social history through these historical brands and packaging.
Victorian craft based maximalism.
I am always astonished when looking at the maximalism that the Victorians lavished on their advertising and the sheer craft in its execution.
Above the good old Radio Times using some great illustrators back in the 1930's, something that continued right up to the 1980's before it took a nose dive.
And in a bleak, post-war, bomb-damaged and rationing Britain, the colourful packaging and advertising promoted a new, optimistic future to keep the spirits up. And for me, the best thing was the futuristic ‘Eagle’ comic, so ahead of everything else at that time, with Dan Dare’s stories of adventure and space travel.
My bedtime passion, The Eagle.
The wonderful thing about the Museum of Brands is that while I am transported back to my childhood (with an ear to the radio listening to ‘Journey into Space’), others in the labyrinth are enjoying the memories of their own childhoods, be it in the ’60s or the ’00s. There is something for everyone, no matter their age.
When leaving the main collection area, you are led through to a space for viewing television commercials, from 1956 when they first aired on our TV screens, starting with “tingling fresh SR toothpaste” in glorious black and white.
See the very first British SR toothpaste TV commercial broadcast in 1956
For schools, it is a wonderful history lesson. For any graphic designer, it should be compulsory. I loved it, was moved by it and wanted the whole collection.
Followed by Murraymints 'There too good to hurry mints'.
Alongside the packaging, you can see toys, TV tie-ins, posters, advertisements, books and all sorts of written ephemera in this delightful little museum. For more information click here.