Celebrating 50 Years: From a Packet of Munchies to the Museum of Brands

By Richard Moss | 16 August 2013

Exhibition preview: Celebrating 50 years: From a Packet of Munchies to the Museum of Brands, Museum of Brands, London

a photo of a man with shelves stacked full of packaging
Robert Opie with his remarkable collection© Courtesy Museum of Brands
Fifty years ago, a packet of Munchies from a vending machine in Inverness became the first item in the collection of the Museum of Brands.

A mere brainwave of founder Robert Opie – who leaves visitors to decide which of his self-imposed titles, “consumer historian” and “supermarket archaeologist”, is closer to the truth – by 1975 the exhibits, ranging from a First World War Oxo cube to a 1970s chopper bike, were sufficiently formidable to warrant an exhibition, The Pack Age, at the V&A.

“I was struck by the idea that I should save the packaging which would otherwise surely disappear forever,” says Opie.

“The collection offers evidence of a dynamic commercial system that delivers thousands of desirable items from all corners of the world.”

He sees that industrial feat as “arguably more complex” than the moon landing – a point which, if at first sounding a little far-fetched, demands further thought when Opie suggests we take the history of wrap for granted.

On a journey to assembling 500,000 items (12,000 are currently on display), Opie started out with The Museum of Packaging and Advertising, in Gloucester, where it remained for 17 years from 1984, accompanied by a version on Wigan Pier, Opie’s Museum of Memories, in 1999.

All those long-gone sweet encasements, soap powders and everyday miniatures came to represent forgotten ways of life. Since opening in Notting Hill in 2005, the museum has become a nostalgic hit with enthusiasts and holiday-makers.

Opie has compiled more than 20 books and racked up hundreds of television and radio appearances, adding a feature-length DVD, Throwaway History, to this celebratory exhibition of tiny details decorating the decades.

  • Open 10am-6pm (11am-5pm Sunday, closed Monday except Bank Holidays, closed August 25-26). Admission £2.25-£6.50 (family ticket £15). Follow the mjuseum on Twitter @MuseumofBrands‎.

More pictures:

a photo of various packets and brand from the 1970s
© Courtesy Museum of Brands
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