Exhibition: Hidden Heroes – The Genius of Everyday Things, Science Museum, London, until June 5 2012
From the ring binder and the rubber band to adhesive tape and the egg box, the Science Museum's major new show is a back-to-basics homage to the inventions we couldn't live without.
And while there's delight to be had in simplicity, the underlying message also resonates.
"At a time when celebrity is king, it gives all of us at the museum enormous satisfaction to celebrate the truly uncelebrated," says Dr Susan Mossman, a materials science specialist who has worked on The Genius of Everyday Things.
"It will shine a light on a group of outstanding inventions and inventors, revealing the supposedly mundane to be nothing short of remarkable."
It's not just the origins of the show – created by the Vitra Design Museum on the River Rhine – which give it the Vorsprung durch Technik feel.
For bubble wrap, to pick one item inspired by and evolving to aid technological forward-thinking, the engineers Al Fielding and Marc Chavannes were experimenting with textured plastic wallpaper.
Midway through a flight, Chavannes spotted that the clouds appeared to be cushioning the plane he was on as it descended.
Several years later, having pursued the realisation that air inside plastic film could provide consummate packing material, the pair began mass producing their discovery, which remains the stuff of packages across the world to this day.
Elsewhere, coffee filters are revealed as the inventions of early 20th century Dresden housewives and corkscrews turn out to be patented to a British clergyman, Samuel Henshall, from way back in 1795.
Condoms were once made from animal intestines (the first rubber number was introduced in 1870), and a competition led by Napoleon resulted in the mighty tin can.
Who knew? Rawl Plugs and coat hangers have never seemed so deceptively entrancing.
- Open 10am-6pm (except December 24-26). Admission £6/£3.50 (family ticket £11-£16). Book online or visit the Hidden Heroes website for more.
More pictures from the show:
© AW Faber-Castell Corporate Administration Archive and Collections
© Sebastian Errazuriz
© Vitra Design Museum. Photo: Andreas Sütterlin