Wednesday, March 07, 2007

London's Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

I was hugely excited when I came across the website for the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill. Wow, a museum in London I’d never heard of covering a sexy topic in a cool part of town – perfect. The museum had the backing of brand heavy weights such as Kellogg’s, Twinings and Cadbury. I love brands. My expectations were high.

Located in a hip mews space off the Portobello Road, from the outside, the place looked promising. Once inside, I entered a sort of time tunnel which, starting with the Victorians, lead me through a chronological history of British products and packages with over 10,000 items crammed into the exhibition cases. At first, I was amazed and entertained by the sheer amount of stuff. Package piled upon package, labels, toys, posters, cans, virtually everything consumed in this country in the last 120 years has found its way into this collection. The last time I had seen anything like this; I was in my grandmother’s attic. But what was the point? Where were the explanations of how a brand, an advertisement or a package drives consumer choice? What was I to make of all this stuff?

And I wasn’t the only one who felt something was missing. The morning I was there, several classes of teenage students were making their way through the museum. They seemed neither engaged nor were they old enough to participate in the nostalgia and based on their responses to their teacher’s questions, they didn’t learn much either. ”What did you notice as you made your way through the exhibition?” “The Mars bars were bigger back then.” Oh, the missed opportunity of it all.

At the end of the tour, near the exit, there was a newspaper article on the wall that made the whole experience fall into place. The core of this museum is actually the collection of Robert Opie, who has made it his life’s work to collect examples of everything ever sold in Britain. This is, in fact, a museum about collecting. At that level, it works. You can admire the obsessiveness. If you are old enough, you can enjoy the nostalgia. If you work at it, you can glean some social history from all these products, but in no way is this a proper museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising and with an entrance fee of £5.80, it’s also no bargain. I have rarely met a museum I didn’t like, but unless you are a huge fan of collecting or British nostalgia, I’d give the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising a pass.

The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising
Colville Mews
London W11 2AR
Tel: 0207 908 0880
Closed Mondays, except Bank Holidays

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