“ Address: 2 Colville Mews / Lonsdale Road / Notting Hill / London / W11 2AR / England „
I visited the Museum of Branding last week to do some research for my first project for me course. I'd never heard of the museum before and would have thought it would be quite boring but it is one of the most interesting museums I have ever been to. It is well hidden in road in Notting Hill and cost about £3.50 to get in with a group discount and it is normally £4. The museum is basically a collection of packaging mainly from the last 100 years, it is set out in decades and ranges from everything such as games, toiletries, washing and food packaging.
The museum is very, very small and if you walked around it would barely take you five minutes but there is so much to look at we ended up being in there for almost four maybe five hours! It starts with items from Edwardian and Victorian times, mostly things like old telephones and typewriters and posters for pubs or events. There things that mainly stood out to me here were the large collection of cigarette and matchstick boxes as they were elaborately drawn details and a lot of use of gold.
The museum continues to move you chronologically through the decades of the 1900s, there are small specialised parts such as a small Disney display from the 1930s which was all mickey mouse themed toys and few Snow White vintage posters and a display for the first london olympics and a display of The Beatles merchandise. There were many displays that featured many 'make do and mend' type products and a lot of hand drawn war posters and small tubes or tins of toothpaste and soap. It was interesting to see many brands we have today such as Colgate!
Most of the packaging in the museum featured was for washing up brands and famous brands of food and sweets. The 20s had a lot of make up and perfume items that actually looked like small childrens toys and figurines as they were made of plastic. he 40s suddenly turned very bright and garish in comparison to the years before and the 50s had a lot of modern brands like fairy liquid and even Revlon make up. My favourite parts of the museum were the displays of sweets packaging as they all looked very retro in the 50s and 60s and cute in the 30s and my other favourite was the washing detergents as they were all Daz, Persil and Surf but the designs looked very pop art-ish and brightly coloured. Some of the displays featured were pieces that had been set out so they would look like a kitchen at that time which helped you imagine them being more real as they are so different to what we have now.
The 70 and 80s got a bit more recognisable as they introduced crisps and cans of fizzy drinks and some really retro toys like robots and star wars collectables and many other things that I recognised from old films or my mums photo albums. The 90s were a bit nostalgic for me (I'm almost 20 now hehe) as they had things like pokemon spaghetti shapes and themed bubble baths I remember having when I little and some old sweets that are not around now. The last part of this was a small display of the 2010s which didn't differ too much from the 90s really but had a large selection of items from the 2012 Olympcs and the Royal Wedding which was great to see as it shows that the museum is very up to date with it's collection! I have to admit these last few decades were are little lackign compared to the previous ones as they were so much smaller and you seemed to recognise more and everything became a little less special as everything seemed more modern.
The next part of the museum was about particular brands and showed displays of how their branding and packaging had developed through the years such as Persil, Fairy Liquid, Roses, Cadburys, HP Sauce and my personal favourite coke cans and bottles. It was very interesting to see here how much the packaging had changed from something unrecognisable to us now or had stayed pretty much the same for decades. The rest of the museum was about mass production and materials used for packaging and how everything now affects the environment which I have to say I didn't pay too much attention to as I was so tired from making studies of everything before!
I would really recommend this museum, especially to art students and definitely graphic design students but also to anyone with an interest or just looking for something to do for an afternoon. There is nothing boring about this museum and even though it is extremely small it has so much stuff to look at and you can learn so much. It really makes you imagine how different things were in the past and really is just so interesting. There is a very small, quiet café which was empty when we were there so I'm guessing it doesn't really get used and a gift shop at the end full of some vintage style posters, cards and other museum type gifts which I would have been tempted to buy if I'd had a bit more money on me. (they were not overly priced I'm just a poor student!) Overall it is a great museum for a small cost and definitely worth some of your time.
The Opie Collection in the Notting Hill area of West London is a rubbish museum. It literally is a rubbish museum as its other title is the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising and consists mostly of old bottles tins and cans from the Victorian era onwards. Its one of those weird and wonderful museums you stumble across and wonder who could possibly think this up? Is the founder a fruitcake or a genius. Its also one of those museums that could be completely boring with its degree of specialism or utterly absorbing and fascinating in a perverse way.
A LITTLE MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSER
Robert Opie the fou8nder of the Opie Collection is one of Britain's most avid collectors (the likes we see on the antique Road show every week) and could also be seen as a real life Womble saving and collecting the "Things that the everyday folks leave behind". His collection started with a humble Munchies wrapper when he was 16 and now involves 12 000 items of consumer memorabilia from chocolate wrappers and baked bean cans to references to popular culture such as toys and technology. Basically anything commercially manufactured and mass produced since the Industrial Revolution could be included in this museum. It really is all encompassing and perhaps the ultimate social history museum.
His collection was initially housed in Gloucester but closed in 2001 to make way for flats. The museum relocated to the present site in Notting Hill in 2005. There was also a branch "The Museum of Memories" in Wigan as part of the now defunct "Wigan Pier Experience", which I visited in October 2002,. The Wigan branch was quite interactive to complement the historical theme park of the "Wigan Pier Experience" with actors in costume and plenty of themed displays such as a 1960s boutique so I was interested to see how the two different museums compared.
ALL THE FUN OF FINDING THE MUSEUM
The museum is not the easiest place to find without a decent map or London A to Z. Its not that well signposted, as its not a major tourist attraction and is located through an archway off a side street in Notting Hill. The nearest tube station is Notting Hill Gate on the Central and Circle Lines but Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park on the Hammersmith and City Line (and now the Circle) Line are also within walking distance. I'd actually recommend these two on a busy Saturday afternoon as fighting our way through the marauding jostling crowds visiitng Poertobello Road Market was pretty unpleasant, as the museum is located on one of the streets leading off the upper section of Portobello Road.
ONE MAN'S JUNK IS ANOTHER ONE'S TREASURE"
Being a private collection (and now a charitable foundation) there is an admission charge for the museum. At £5.80 (including gift aid ) for an adult it was at the top end of the scale I would pay for such a minor and unknown museum in London. Concessions are £3.50 and children £2.00. There's also a family ticket for £14.00. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays year round apart from Christmas Day and during the Notting Hill Carnival.
Compared to the Wigan branch, the London branch is very much a traditional style museum with lots and lots of glass cabinets and information panels and labels. Its located on the ground floor of the building so it would be easy for those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs to enter the building however once inside its not as accessible due to the layout of the museum. The exhibits were tightly packed within a fairly small space with cabinets facing each other. You just need one largish group or slow moving person to create a bottle neck bring the flow of the museum to a standstill making it not ideal for a wheelchair. Luckily when we visited one Saturday afternoon in September it was fairly quiet. However there were parts where one person was lingering at a certain display meaning we had to move on and come back to the display or linger at the previous one.
"THE MILKY BARS ARE ON ME"
The first part of the museum was a gentle chronological wander through the decades starting with the Victorian era. A large easy to read information panel introduced each era putting the commercial developments into a broader context with the events that occurred in that era. Within each section the cabinets were organised thematically,, Some broad such as toys to more specific such as the importance of the radio in the 20s, the war effort in the two world wars or England's 1966 world Cup victory. The cabinets are well presented but often quite densely packed especially with smaller items of packaging so its a museum you could spend quite a long time in certain areas. For those interested a laminate for each cabinet identifying key items would have been useful a
Memories are a powerful force when it comes to the Collection. I found the earlier decades useful g to understand the development of the consumer age but could not relate to most of the products on display.. Once familiar brands started arriving in the 20s and 30s it became more interesting, as we commented " did not realise that was so old " or "The Kit K at packaging has not changed that much" . I was astounded to see curry powder in the Edwardian era , as I always think of it as a much newer fad. The advertising side of the collection is particularly important, as it shows changes in society. The posters from the inter war period depicting glamorous girls smoking were very much of the period and could not be produced nowadays with our present day attitudes to the tobacco industry and government intervention. The collection also includes government promotional materials such as the famous war effort posters showing the full scope of what is meant by advertising. Backed up by particular war products such as whale meat and powdered eggs and the reduced packaging that we could all learn from this was of medium interest although I had seen some of the items a million times before in social history and military museums.
"A MARS A DAY MAKES YOU WORK RWEST AND PLAY!
Things really picked up around about the 1960s, as there were items I remember my parents owning. I was born in the 70s as was my boyfriend so we were in heaven in the 70s, 80s and 90s sections of the museum reminiscing over old crisps packetsm space hoppers and alcopop bottles. However these sections were smaller and lacking compared to the older ones with only a couple of cabinets dedicated to each one of the final decades of the 20th century".
The next section explored the development of Britain's favourite brands . Similar items such as chocolate bar or laundry detergent were grouped together. It was mildly interesting seeing how the packaging had changed over the years and which versions you remembered. There were the odd television adverts especially with Kellogs cereals. I think the museum could use more multimedia such as television adverts, slogans and jingles to bring it more alive but this could be expensive due to getting to copyright to these materials. Certain brands seam to be more prominent due to the sponsorship of the museum by a number of companies but generally these are the mos well known and loved. Somewhere in this section there was also a little bit on changing brand names and the reasons behind them. Everyone I know is mystified why marathon a good name for a chocolate bar changed top the dreadful Snickers.
There was a third section which I suppose you could call the educational section, as it covered about the manufacturing innovations and materials used in packaging including the future an the move towards environmental packaging. At this point I started to switch off. One Coca Cola can seemed to blend into the next and I started to get bored. There really is too much to take in at times and it can get a bit samey. Right at the end after a special exhibition on political memorabilia was a section dedicated to confectionery. It was good but by this time it just seemed all too similar.
Right at the end is a small area with tables and chairs and a television screen showing vintage adverts. I am not sure if there was supposed to be a cafe there or not as I saw no menus. Perhaps this was more a study or meeting area. There was also a small shop selling a selection of merchandise themed around vintage advertising that seemed to be reasonably priced.
We spent perhaps an hour to an hour and a half in the museum but as I mentioned by th end of it i found it a bit repetitive. Its not a must see when visititng London but if you are in th Notting Hill area and have an hour or so to kill its well worth a look. Although there is a child's price and family ticket I really could not recommend this museum to those with young children. After seeing a few Mars Bar wrappers and what mummy/granddad played with ate/ washed with when they were younger here would be little to amuse and keep their attention. I really is a museum for those those of middle age or above as nostalgia is the key to enjoying the Opie Collection.
Museum of Brands
2 Colville Mews, Lonsdale Road,
Notting Hill, London, W11 2AR
Tel: 020 7908 0880
Discover the trends of daily life, how are shopping habits have evolved, and household goods, how taste and tempo fromm groceries to sweets have changed, how motoring, aviation, radio and television have advanced, along with the gradual emancipation of women and the effects of two world wars.