The design of everyday things provides a portal into your past

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Musuem of Brands

In Lancaster there is a place called GB Antiques Centre, which bills itself as “country’s biggest indoor antiques and furniture centre, attracting 220,000 visitors every year.”

It’s a warehouse with 100+ individual stands packed with all kinds of objects, the majority of which are not necessarily of a particularly high value in financial terms. Instead, it’s mostly the things of everyday life, often from the fairly recent past – comics, vinyl records, scales, toys. It’s hard not to get nostalgic walking around, as you realise it’s often the seemingly insignificant things that can conjure up the strongest memories of your grandmother’s kitchen or a school friend’s room.

So the launch of a Museum of Brands makes sense. It’s the brainchild and labour of love of Robert Opie – a collection of “12,000 boxes, cartons, tins, bottles, jars, packets, posters, games, toys…”

From the Guardian:

“It’s a portal into your own past,” says Opie, explaining how it fascinates older people recognising the tea packages, soap boxes and jam labels of their youth, while teenagers are astonished to discover their own pocket money sweets are already museum pieces. “People immediately make the link between these objects and the key moments in their own lives. Very few places can do that.” […]

The collection began after Opie found himself hungry during an overnight stay in Inverness on a Sunday in the 1960s. All shops were closed, except for the station store, where he bough a packet of ginger nut biscuits and some Mackintosh’s chocolate caramel Munchies. He looked at the yellow and red wrappers and believed he held history in his hands; opening them so carefully that 53 years later they are still immaculate, and on display in the museum.

It’s easy to forget the significance of design when it comes to the ordinary objects around us. But it matters.

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